Know Your Rights: What is the role of a support person and when should you use one?



Recently a member in an AHO contacted us to ask whether they were able to bring a support person to a disciplinary meeting which had been sprung on them for the following day. There can be quite a lot of uncertainty about when to bring a support person and what their role is. In this article we look at the when you should bring a support person, the role of a support person and who you can bring to the meeting.

When should you bring a support person to a meeting?

Employees may be asked to attend a meeting with their employer to discuss a matter relevant to the employee’s employment. As this can be a very stressful time if it is happening to you, we recommend that you have a support person present. This is essential if the matter relates to allegations in which potential disciplinary action could be taken. However, you should also bring a support person to meetings if they relate to performance issues, grievances and consultation regarding changes to your role.

What does a support person actually do?

The role of a support person is to provide the employee with support during the meeting, take notes and adjourn the meeting for a break if required. The employee will be required to do most of the speaking as the support person cannot represent the employee and is not able to advocate on their behalf. The support person plays an essential role because they observe the meeting, make sure it is procedurally fair for the employee, takes notes and if necessary, they will intervene and stop the meeting if the interviewer goes too far.

All NSW Health Policies make clear that there is a right to attend a disciplinary meeting with a support person. However, we are aware that in some instances, employees are not being told that they are entitled to a support person. This is extremely concerning as it fails to afford the employee with procedural fairness.

Who can I bring as a support person?

You can take an ASMOF industrial officer with you as a support person. If you are in a regional area and we are unable to attend in person, we can arrange to attend via teleconference. You could also take a family member, trusted colleague, friend or even a lawyer (although they cannot act as your advocate).

Can I be made to attend with only 24 hours’ notice even if I haven’t got a support person ready?

In short, no. If this happens to you, we recommend you contact ASMOF immediately as we can ensure that you are given adequate time to arrange a support person and prepare for the meeting. You are entitled to be given reasonable notice of an interview. It would be unreasonable to direct someone to a meeting for the following day unless their actions represent an imminent risk to patient safety.  

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