Disciplinary cases, staff complaints, investigations – HR matters can be a time-consuming headache. MDU GROUPCARE practices can now get help from a new consultancy service from Peninsula Business Services.

Forged referral letter

A small rural practice discovered that a member of the admin staff had created a referral letter and forged a GP's signature in order for her mother to be referred to a specialist. The employee was suspended and told to attend a disciplinary hearing. Because of the gravity of the case, and the fact that the woman was a long-serving employee and considered a friend by the partners, they did not feel they could remain impartial during a disciplinary procedure. The employee had also been extremely difficult during the investigation, so the partners called on a Peninsula Face2Face consultant to undertake the disciplinary hearing.

The consultant reviewed the investigatory notes and the evidence. At the disciplinary hearing, he took the employee through the evidence, including a copy of the letter with the forged signature, a statement from the GP to the effect that she had not authorised a referral, and evidence that the employee in question had been the only admin person working at the time the referral was sent. Although she denied any involvement initially, she broke down during the hearing and admitted that she had forged the referral. She explained the pressure that her mother's ailing health was having on her, and that she had been desperate to find help. The consultant said he would consider her representations and return to her with an outcome.

He recommended that the practice summarily dismiss the employee for gross misconduct. Although she had eventually admitted forging the letter and apologised, the consultant said that the practice was entitled to consider her actions sufficient to seriously undermine the trust required for an employment relationship to continue. The employee was dismissed with no notice pay.

While the consultant and the practice had empathy for the employee, it was clear that such behaviour could not be condoned and it was important to send a message to other staff regarding the consequences of such serious misconduct.

'We were relieved that we could rely on someone with lots of experience in workplace conflict to help with our predicament. We're a small practice and the close relationships we have with our employees made it difficult for us to deal with this employee impartially. It was a sorry situation but we felt the outcome was appropriate.'

For more information on Peninsula Face2Face, visit themdu.com/groupcare

Any time taken out of a practice manager's or partner's day to deal with HR issues is precious time taken away from providing care for patients. So having the opportunity to request HR help when you need it can be priceless.

Peninsula Face2Face, a new consultancy service available to MDU GROUPCARE practices, provides an impartial consultant to carry out those difficult, time-consuming meetings so you don't have to. Using Peninsula Face2Face you can be assured that employment law matters are conducted in accordance with employment law and best practice.

Meetings with employees to discuss grievances, disciplinary matters, redundancy, TUPE, settlement meetings and so on, must be managed within legal parameters. A Peninsula Face2Face employment law expert can assist with legally compliant arrangements for inviting the employee to the meeting. A consultant can conduct the meeting for or with you, including any necessary investigations. They can provide a written recommendation to bring the matter to a resolution.

The partners felt they didn't have the experience to deal with this type of grievance and sought external assistance from a consultant from Peninsula's Face2Face service.

The following case studies show how the service works in practice.

Receptionist alleged the PM was 'out to get her'

One of three receptionists in a medium-sized inner city practice wrote a long letter detailing her allegations that the practice manager was 'out to get her' and that the other receptionists were treated more favourably.

The partners felt they didn't have the experience to deal with this type of grievance and sought external assistance from a consultant from Peninsula's Face2Face service.

The consultant reviewed the grievance letter and identified three specific complaints:

  • the other receptionists always got the holidays that they wanted and she didn't
  • she had been given a verbal warning for arriving to work late on three occasions but another receptionist had also been late on three occasions and had not received the same sanction
  • another receptionist had received a pay increase when her own request to the PM for a rise had been declined.

The consultant arranged a grievance hearing with the receptionist in order to confirm that the core of the grievance was the three points he had identified. During the meeting, he was able to clarify her story and also to understand what outcome she wanted.

He then met the PM to find out her version of events. It became clear during the conversation that there were quite simple explanations for all of the complaints, two of which included management decisions that the receptionist had not been privy to. The annual leave point arose because she had started working at the practice part-way through the leave year, after the other receptionists had already booked in their annual leave. As only one receptionist could be off work at a time, some of her holiday requests had to be declined where they had clashed.

In his written report, the consultant explained the reasons why none of the receptionist's grievances could be upheld. Once she became aware of the reasons, she accepted that she had not been treated unfavourably. In the knowledge that the PM was not 'out to get her', she approached the PM to clear the air and good relations were restored.

'When we got the grievance letter, I was really worried that it could make matters worse between her and the practice manager if it wasn't dealt with efficiently and effectively, and we didn't feel we had the expertise in house. Thankfully, the Peninsula Face2Face consultant swiftly took charge and brought the situation to a conclusion, keeping us informed along the way.'

This page was correct at publication on 01/12/2015. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.