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Dealing with the most serious disciplinary allegation and fighting to save your job

Published 23 May 2018

Dealing with the most serious disciplinary allegation and fighting to save your job

Facing disciplinary action linked to a death is as serious as it can get for an employee.

When Kelly, an experienced nurse, faced such allegations she protested her innocence and was adamant that she had not done anything wrong.

Kelly, who has always prided herself on the care she provides for the vulnerable, was left shocked and extremely distressed by the accusations levelled against her.

Despite knowing she was blameless, Kelly justifiably feared the worse…and she had good reason to as well. Three years earlier she was unfairly dismissed by the previous owners of the North East-based nursing home where she worked.

Kelly was sacked for gross insubordination and failing to complete an incident form. At the time she denied the allegations and any deliberate wrongdoing. Following a successful disciplinary appeal that decision was overturned and she was reinstated.

Prior to the incident that led to the new allegations against Kelly, the care home was sold about 12 months earlier.  Kelly was transferred to the new owners under the TUPE regulations.

Although new management was now in place, Kelly based on her previous experience of the disciplinary process was keen to avoid a repeat of what happened the last time.

When the allegations against Kelly were first raised she was immediately suspended from work on full pay.

The allegations levelled against her were that she failed to recognise the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest and to administer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to the elderly female resident who died as a result of this.

Given the seriousness of the allegations the disciplinary process was protracted and it took many months to arrange a disciplinary hearing

Kelly contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help before the hearing.

When she met our representative Kelly had gone from being distraught to being angry about how she was being treated. She was also relishing the opportunity to finally have her say and to clear her name.

After reviewing the evidence in the case, which was largely based on comments and allegations from colleagues about how Kelly reacted and treated the resident, our representative noted that there was a key fact missing.

There was no evidence that clearly stated the resident had in fact suffered a heart attack or to confirm her cause of death. This was queried with the employer in advance of the hearing, and it insisted that the cause of death was a cardiac arrest.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative argued that the decision to instigate disciplinary action against Kelly was unfair.

He asserted that the allegations were very clear and specific, but as there was no evidence to confirm the resident had suffered a heart attack then it cannot be claimed that Kelly failed to spot the signs and symptoms and administer the correct treatment for it.

Our representative also queried what cause of death was listed on the death certificate. He was informed by the disciplinary hearing chair that it was unknown.

The witness statements were also used to highlight that despite the seriousness of the allegations, the investigation was not thorough or fair.

The statements presented had simply been written by the members of staff and accepted without ever being questioned or challenged, despite containing numerous contradictions and inconsistencies that were highlighted by our representative.

Kelly was cleared of the allegation. However, she felt she could no longer continue to work at the home. This was due to the way she had been treated and been made to feel, and comments made by colleagues in witness statements.

Our representative initiated a discussion with the employer that would allow both parties to part company in an amicable manner. After some negotiation a settlement agreement was eventually agreed, which involved a financial payment to Kelly and a guaranteed reference that enabled her to move on.

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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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