The Irish Constitution allows all employees to access Trade Union Membership if they wish to do so. However, while that may be the case, Irish Law stipulates that an employer is not obliged to recognise a Trade Union. So what happens if an employee wants Union representation during a disciplinary procedure?
Employees commonly use Trade Unions to negotiate on their behalf in respect of better terms and conditions, or in the event of a disciplinary hearing. A common query that we receive on the advice line is: “Should I allow a Trade Union rep into an employee’s disciplinary hearing, even though we do not recognise Unions?”
Code of practice
Even though a company isn’t required to recognise a Trade Union, it’s worth noting that it could be deemed a breach of an employee’s rights of natural justice not to allow a trade union rep into a disciplinary hearing.
The WRC has produced a Code of Practice of Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures which clearly states that employees are entitled to Trade Union representation. Therefore, when it comes to a disciplinary issue, employers who don’t recognise Trade Unions should still allow the Union rep in, as this will aid in avoiding any breach of the employee’s rights.
This will also allow the employer to show that the employee received a fair process. Trade Union reps can also attend Tribunals and Labour Court cases. During a Tribunal the employee is allowed to converse with their Union rep in order receive advice on any issue they may be unsure of.
The Union’s representative role
With a Union rep present, the employer should still conduct the meeting in the same manner. The Union rep can answer on behalf of the employee, and if this is the case, the employer can redirect the questions to the employee concerned.
The employer can explain to the Union rep that they understand that they are there to represent, but can request that the employee answers the questions put to them.
If you have any queries regarding Trade Union representation during disciplinary proceedings, call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 855 50 50 and we’ll be happy to offer our advice and guidance.