A New Zealand man has hit the headlines after hiring a clown to accompany him to his redundancy meeting.
In New Zealand, it is a legal requirement for those facing redundancy to be allowed to bring a 'support person' (usually a friend or family member) to meetings. Josh Thompson instead decided to hire a clown to accompany him. According to Mr Thompson, the clown made balloon animals throughout the meeting.
In the UK, an employee does not have the statutory right to be accompanied at a redundancy consultation meeting. Employees only have a statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance meeting and the statutory right only extends to being accompanied by a trade union representative or a colleague.
Employers should, however, be mindful of whether their internal policies or contractual terms give employees the right to be accompanied for other types of meetings even if these are not disciplinary or grievance hearings, such as redundancy consultation meetings.
Even where no statutory or contractual right exists, employers should still consider whether in the particular circumstances of the case, it would be reasonable to allow an employee to be accompanied to a redundancy consultation meeting, particularly where the situation is complex or the employee lacks the confidence or ability to engage fully in the meeting. This helps to show that as an employer you are acting fairly.
There is also a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees in certain circumstances, which could include allowing a disabled employee to be accompanied at meetings such as redundancy consultation meetings, or allowing a companion other than a colleague or trade union representative to attend.
Any request by an employee to be accompanied at a meeting should be carefully considered and judged on its particular merits.
When Josh was finally delivered the hammer blow that he was to lose his job, the clown reacted accordingly. "He nodded his head along when I received the bad news as if he was also receiving the bad news," Josh said.