Case Studies

Case Studies

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Facing dismissal for an honest error of judgement.

Published 13 November 2017

It’s incredibly difficult to go through working life without making a genuine mistake and when it leaves you facing the sack it can become a real life nightmare.

In such circumstances our representatives at Castle Associates can provide invaluable disciplinary support and ensure your employer is presented with all of the relevant facts before a decision is made.

As an experienced nurse Jessica was horrified and distraught when she was accused by her employer of breaching patient confidentiality at the Hampshire-based rehabilitation unit.

In the nursing profession, in fact in any profession, any such allegation is extremely serious and can lead to dismissal.

Jessica was treating an injured male resident when she used a recognised nursing code to inform a new colleague about the man’s medical condition. The wounded resident had a male relative in the room with him at the time.

The man had suffered a cut to his head following a fall and the wound had started to bleed again. Jessica was treating him when the colleague, who was not wearing gloves, came to help.

Jessica used the code to covertly alert her workmate to the fact that the resident had a blood infection. The colleague picked up on this and put gloves on.

In the circumstances Jessica thought she had acted discreetly in front of the visitor.

Over a week later Jessica was called into her manager’s office and informed that the resident had made a formal complaint against her for breaching confidentiality.

She was informed that the male relative who was in the room at the time is a former nurse and knew exactly what the code word meant. He was said to be unaware of the resident’s condition and he later questioned him about it.

Jessica was suspended and escorted from the premises and she had no idea what to expect next.

She was later informed by a letter that a disciplinary investigation would take place and that her employer would be in touch.

Two months later she was invited to an investigation meeting where she explained that she had tried to be discreet, used a code that is often used in the profession and she was trying to protect her colleague.

However, her employer decided to instigate disciplinary action against Jessica and she was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing three months later. She was informed that she could attend the hearing accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative.

Jessica contacted the Castle Associates support centre for help. She later met with and presented our representative with all of the evidence and case paperwork.

Our representative spoke with Jessica in order to gain a good understating of the case. He was able to provide an honest assessment of the case and explain how best to present her response at the disciplinary hearing.

Prior to a disciplinary hearing our representative will always thoroughly review the evidence in order to identify anything that can help an employee’s case. This can include inconsistencies and contradictions in the evidence, unfair treatment an employee has suffered or flaws in the case.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative was able to highlight a number of factors in support of Jessica’s case.

This included inconsistencies in the complaint letter; the fact the male relative was not spoken to despite the complaints procedure advising for this to be done where appropriate; the term was commonly used and an established, recognised and accepted form of communication between staff, the term is written on bloods when sent for testing; Jessica had not received appropriate training to help her in such a situation; and that she genuinely believed she was being discreet when acting in good faith to try and protect a colleague.

On the day the disciplinary hearing was adjourned and it reconvened after a one-hour break. Jessica was informed that she had been cleared of any wrongdoing and that she would receive additional training.

The entire disciplinary process had taken five months and Jessica was understandably relieved that she was finally cleared and that it was over. Jessica was so impressed by our representative that she has since recommended him to a number a friends and colleagues who have had disciplinary problems at work.

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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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