If a support person and/or industrial representative attends a meeting, the meeting facilitator should clearly advise all attendees of the meeting expectations and confirm their role in the meeting. This should include what a support person can and cannot do to support you.
A support person can positively contribute by:
- providing you with emotional support and reassurance
- taking notes for you
- seeking breaks to allow you to regain your composure, if needed
A support person should not speak on your behalf, or directly answer questions put to you. Generally, you will be required to respond directly to questions asked of you.
In addition to the above, if you are a member of a union and ask a union officer to support you as an industrial representative the officer has a role to support your interests in line with industrial legislation and their union rules. For example, they might ask clarifying questions of the meeting facilitator, prompt you or give you advice to ensure the process you are part of is fair and adheres to industrial legislation.
There may still be occasions where only you can give evidence regarding matters or incidents. It is not the role of the industrial representative to provide direct evidence on your behalf or defend you regarding allegations relating to workplace performance or conduct matters.
The meeting facilitator should remind everyone, including your support person, that they must maintain appropriate confidentiality to protect the integrity of the process and the privacy of the people involved. This includes not discussing the matter with work colleagues or those likely to have information relating to the matter.
Confidentiality requirements do not extend to industrial representatives carrying out their duties in representing your interests, for example in seeking further legal advice or representing you in a dispute around process.
If a support person becomes difficult or disruptive during a meeting, the meeting facilitator should remind them of their role and the expectations discussed at the beginning of the meeting. If it continues, the meeting facilitator may find it necessary to suspend the meeting to give you time to speak with your support person privately.
If the employee support person continues with their disruptive behaviour, you and the meeting facilitator might agree to:
- continue the meeting without the support person
- reschedule the meeting with an alternative support person
- raise and address the questions in writing.