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Case Studies

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Making sense of a misunderstanding that leaves an employee fearing the worst

Published 10 April 2018

There is no greater relief for an employee at the end of a disciplinary hearing than hearing or reading the words ‘we have decided not to take any further action.’

For an employee who has not previously been subjected to the formal disciplinary process, the preceding period is likely to be the worst of their working life.

An apology is rarely forthcoming and the weeks, sometimes months, of constant worry and fear can be difficult to forget.

Support worker Leon discovered this when he was the subject of a disciplinary investigation.

Leon worked in a home supporting vulnerable adults in the North West of England. He had six years’ service and was the longest serving member of staff.

Permanent staff working in any area of care will be used to working alongside agency staff. Leon’s problem started when it was just him and an agency worker on duty. He had only worked a couple of previous shifts with the worker.

Leon asked his female colleague if she could accompany a service user to the shop. She agreed to do so without objection or complaint, and Leon certainly had no reason to believe he had done anything wrong.

A few days later Leon was called into his manager’s office and asked about it. He was happy to confirm that he did make the request – but he was certainly not expecting what came next.

He was informed the agency worker was not trained to accompany service users in the community. Leon was also told that she was claiming she had informed him of this, but he ignored the fact and ordered her to do it. He was also told of other allegations she had made against him, which included complaints about his behaviour and manner.

Leon denied the allegations and insisted there was no objection from the agency worker and he was definitely not told she was not trained for the task. He was suspended from work and sent home.

Leon was understandably distraught when he was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing. Having never faced disciplinary action before he was unsure about what to do or expect.

Leon mentioned the situation he was in during a chat with one of his neighbours and he advised him to contact Castle Associates employee support.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative highlighted that there was only one allegation, which was instructing a member of staff to support a service user in the community when they were not trained to do so.

Our representative argued any other allegations made in the agency worker’s statement were prejudicial, unproven and not listed as allegations so should not be considered. He sought and was given an assurance they would not be.

The agency worker’s statement had been sent by email and it was never questioned or challenged by the employer. Crucially it did not include the claim that she told Leon she was not trained to accompany the service user to the shop and that he ignored this. The employer insisted she had said this in a follow up conversation that was not documented.

Our representative argued that all evidence to support the allegations should have been provided in advance of the hearing and that a failure to do so was a clear breach of the ACAS Code of Practice, which all employers are encouraged to follow. He pointed out that any breach of the Code was usually a good indication that a process is unfair.

Our representative also maintained it was a case of the word of Leon against that of agency worker with no corroborating evidence one way or the other, and that in such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to give the alleged wrongdoer the benefit of the doubt.

Leon was eventually cleared of the allegation.

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