Being disciplined unfairly
Published 05 August 2019
A lack of care in the disciplinary process that could have had dire consequences
For Fiona going through the disciplinary process was a nightmare experience and the relief when it is over was enormous.
Fiona, a support worker for over 12 years at a residential home for disabled children, was cleared of psychologically abusing a vulnerable child in her care.
For anyone working in the care sector there can be nothing worse than to be wrongly accused of abusing those you care for.
Fiona was distraught when she contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
The disciplinary process that Fiona was put through took three months from the time of her suspension up until her being informed that the allegation had been dropped.
During that time Fiona was plagued with constant stress and anxiety, which affected all aspects of her life. She knew that if the allegation was upheld her career in care would be over.
Fiona met with our representative to talk through the case and review the evidence prior to attending a disciplinary hearing.
Given the seriousness of the allegation our representative was shocked by the lack of evidence and investigation conducted.
A number of staff were said to have been present when the alleged incident took place. Fiona was alleged to have instructed the resident, taunted them when they did not do as told and this was before she was said to have issued a verbal threat about what would happen to the resident if they did not do as told.
The case against Fiona was based on three anonymous witness statements and only one appeared to support the allegation. That one witness was not present and her statement was based on what she said she was told by a colleague.
Fiona had been made aware that two other members of staff had been interviewed, but those witness statements had not been provided.
Our representative felt this was a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice. The Code provides statutory guidance that employers are encouraged to follow.
Prior to the hearing our representative requested all of the statements from the company. It refused to provide them and claimed they were not relevant.
Our representative then submitted a formal grievance to the company on behalf of Fiona. The grievance was based on the fact the company was deliberately withholding evidence that may support Fiona’s case.
After receiving the grievance there was an exchange of correspondence between the company and our representative. The company eventually provided the two additional witness statements, which resolved the grievance.
The statements were from staff members that were not working at the time but were nearby speaking to a colleague. Those statements gave an account of the incident, which described the resident as extremely upset and Fiona doing her best to try and calm them down.
Fiona was, understandably, very angry and upset, about the allegation levelled against her and the way the investigation had been handled.
Our representative discussed Fiona’s desired outcome with her. She was quick to discount any idea of a settlement agreement because she wanted to return to work and look after the residents.
The disciplinary hearing was told the process conducted was unfair. This included the use of anonymous witnesses against guidance in employment law and the ACAS Code; no direct evidence to support for the allegation and the only support for it being based on hearsay; and the fact that at least two witnesses describe Fiona as dealing with a very difficult situation the best she could.
The company insisted it had to take the allegation seriously and maintained it had carried out a fair and thorough investigation. Fiona was quizzed about the incident and asserted that she did nothing wrong.
The disciplinary hearing chair asked for a break as the hearing was drawing to a close. After 10 minutes she returned to inform Fiona that the allegations were being dropped.
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