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A disciplinary process that was a crying shame.

Published 09 December 2020

Failing to care for a distressed and injured child is one of the most devastating allegations a nursery worker can face.

It was an allegation levelled against Sophie when she faced what she believed was a seemingly impossible fight to save her job.

The incident was captured on CCTV taken inside the nursery.

It was alleged that the video showed a child falling near Sophie and her failure to react as it lay distressed and crying on the floor before a colleague rushed to help.

However, at the disciplinary hearing our representative was actually able to use the footage to help clear Sophie, who had worked at the family run nursery for just over two years.

On the face of it the CCTV footage evidence appeared damning.

The nursery seemed so sure of its case it did not carry out a disciplinary investigation.

Sophie was invited to a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of failing to provide appropriate care to a possibly injured child.

She categorically denied the allegation. Desperate Sophie contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

Prior to the hearing our representative discussed and reviewed the evidence with Sophie. He was keen for the disciplinary hearing to focus on events around the incident.

The CCTV footage showed Sophie dealing with a little girl who was clearly having a tantrum, laying on her back on the floor with arms and legs flailing.

It then captures another child running up behind her, tripping and falling on its front just behind Sophie. It is 30 seconds before another nursery worker appears and goes to comfort the child.

The incident occurred shortly after the children entered the building after playing out.

In discussions about the case beforehand, Sophie told our representative that she was often left on her own to look after too many children. She claimed that on the day of the incident it happened again.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative highlighted that 10 children could be counted in the footage. He asked for this to be compared to the number of visible staff at the time of the incident – there was only Sophie.  

He asserted that it did not meet the strict guidelines on the ratio of staff to children given the age range of the children in the room.

When the allegation first came to light Sophie was suspended from work and played a very short clip of the incident. The clip, less than a minute long, was presented as the main evidence to support the allegation.

Prior to the hearing and based on what Sophie had told him, our representative requested additional footage leading up to the incident. The requested CCTV was from the time when the children entered the building.

It showed that Sophie was left alone with 10 children for nearly four minutes. At one stage she is seen to go to the door and gesture outside. She explained this was to colleagues to ask them to come and help, but no one did.

Our representative with Sophie’s help painted the picture of the chaotic situation she had to deal with on her own - excited, noisy, active little children who had come in after playing out.

Sophie provided emails to show she had repeatedly raised concerns about being left on her own with too many children. The correspondence was presented to assert Sophie can be considered a whistle-blower for reporting a risk to the health and safety of children.

The footage was used to point out the child Sophie was alleged to have ignored fell behind her, out of sight. It was when she was dealing with another distressed, crying child and did not hear its cries with all of the chaos around her.

Our representative argued at length that in the circumstances Sophie’s actions could not reasonably be considered misconduct.

The day after the hearing a delighted Sophie was informed that she had been cleared of the allegation.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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