When employees leave a company it can sometimes be under a very dark cloud and it can cause problems for those who remain with the business.
When one of Helen’s former colleagues left the care home where they worked, her parting shot created a huge problem for Helen.
The former worker resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. In her scathing resignation letter she labelled Helen a bully and said she was physically abusive to residents.
The company was understandably alarmed by the claims. It decided to treat the resignation letter as a formal grievance.
Employers do not have to accept a grievance from an ex-employee, but the company decided to do so in this case.
This meant trouble for Helen who had 16 years’ unblemished service and an exemplary disciplinary record.
She was distraught and tearful after being summoned to her manager’s office and informed of the allegations.
Helen was told that given the seriousness of the allegations the company would have to carry out a full disciplinary investigation.
Helen requested details of the allegations and a copy of the grievance, but was told that information would not be provided at this stage. She was informed that she would be suspended from work on full pay.
Helen was later sent a letter inviting her to attend an investigation meeting. The company policy allowed an employee to be accompanied by a companion at such a meeting.
Many employers will not allow employees to be accompanied at an investigation meeting. Employees do not have a statutory right to be accompanied at an investigation meeting. However, they do have a statutory right to be accompanied at a formal disciplinary or grievance hearing.
Helen contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help.
Prior to the investigation meeting our representative requested a copy of the resignation/grievance letter from the employer.
He insisted the document was required in order so that Helen could fully understand the allegations against her and prepare for the meeting. He pointed it would also allow her to fully cooperate with the investigation, and that given the serious nature of the allegations it was a reasonable request.
The company initially refused to provide a copy of the letter. There followed an exchange of correspondence in which our representative indicated Helen would raise a grievance as she was being denied a reasonable opportunity to prepare for the meeting.
The company provided a copy of the resignation letter 48 hours before the investigation meeting was scheduled to take place. Our representative then requested a copy of the company grievance policy, which was provided.
The resignation letter, that was said to be a grievance, made a lot of allegations. Helen was alleged to have bullied ‘loads of staff’ by being loud, threatening and abusive. It did not name any members of staff.
The letter also alleged that Helen had been rough and insulting when she was caring for residents. It named only one male resident and referred to an incident that was alleged to have taken place 18 months earlier. The letter said it was reported to the manager at the time, and he looked into it and took no further action.
Helen was understandably worried and anxious about the meeting after reading the letter. Our representative was concerned about the lack of specific details to support the allegations and suggested writing a prepared statement to be presented at the meeting.
The statement highlighted a number of significant points in support of Helen’s case. This included the fact the distinct lack of detail to support the allegations made it impossible for Helen to defend herself, the company had not followed its contractual grievance procedure and the previous allegation in regards to the incident had been investigated and dismissed.
The statement was discussed at length in the investigation meeting as were a number of issues. Our representative acknowledged the employer’s concerns in relation to the letter.
He maintained, however, it would be grossly unfair to take further action against Helen in the circumstances given the lack of information and detail to support the allegations, which means she is unable to prepare to defend herself.
The meeting chair said she would consider the statement and what had been discussed. The following week Helen was informed the matter would not be taken any further.