It is well known that an employee must be given the opportunity to have a support person present at a disciplinary investigation meeting. An employer recently found to its cost that the role of the support person is much wider than just supporting the employee.

The employer was ordered to pay $5,000 for getting the process wrong even though a dismissal would still have been likely if the process had been done properly.  The employer’s HR manager had advised the employee’s support person that their role was limited to support for the employee and to ensuring that the process was correct.

The Employment Court ruled that the support person must also be able to speak on the employee’s behalf, to intervene in the process and to give explanations.  As they were not allowed to do this there was no proper representation and a breach of process resulted.