The prime minister’s aides are reportedly drawing up plans to allow employees – including teachers – to be accompanied to disciplinary meetings by non-union officials.
The move is being seen as an attempt to reduce workers’ reliance on unions for protection in the workplace.
The plans would enable employees to choose to be accompanied to disciplinary or grievance hearings by an external lawyer or representative of a body other than a union, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph.
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At the moment, the law only requires employers – including schools – to allow staff to bring a union representative into such meetings.
Teachers ‘entitled to proper representation’
A Conservative Party source told the Sunday Telegraph: “The unions have a stranglehold on workers, particularly teachers.
“We think all employees should be entitled to proper representation in disciplinary processes, not just those who have unionised. Nobody should find themselves forced to join one out of fear they will miss out on vital protections.”
The proposals to amend the Employment Relations Act were originally set out by Edapt, an organisation providing legal support to teachers. Edapt argued that the existing legislation fails to allow equal employment rights to non-union members.
“Statutorily, the chosen companion during grievance and disciplinary hearings may be a fellow worker, a trade-union representative or an official employed by a trade union,” the Edapt paper, which was published in December, states.
“Any other request for accompaniment that is not from one of the categories above can be refused by the employer.
“The employer is free to have whoever they choose present to support, including a legally qualified person.”
Edapt added that, in practice, schools generally allowed representatives from their organisation to accompany teachers to disciplinary hearings.
A spokesperson said: "This is very straightforwardly a question of fairness. Joining a union is a choice, but this choice should not affect your employment law rights.
"It is challenging to understand why anyone would be opposed to such a positive move forward for employment relations.”
Mark Lehain, until recently the director of the group Parents and Teachers for Excellence, said that he supported the plan.
“This is an idea that has been floating around government for several years and I’m pleased that it now appears to be gaining some traction,” he added.