If you're a Groupcare member, you're able to access free employment law advice provided by Peninsula, experts in employment law and health and safety issues within the workplace.
As well as the employment law service, you and your team can access Peninsula's Health and Safety advice service. Groupcare practices where all of your GPs are MDU members can also access the Employee Assistance Programme through Health Assured. This lets employees of the practice seek advice on an array of day-to-day issues they may come across in their personal life.
The types of concerns Peninsula helps MDU Groupcare members with vary widely. Below, William Griffiths, priority employment law business partner at Peninsula, describes three common MDU member dilemmas of the sort dealt with by Peninsula's advisers on a daily basis.
If you want to take advantage of the Peninsula advice service, just visit our website for details - you can find out more here.
Dealing with frequent short-term absence
A practice needed to make a difficult decision about an employee who had several instances of short-term absence. Despite being spoken to on several occasions, their attendance levels were not improving. The employee had a disability, and while some absences were related to this, many were not.
The practice found it difficult to manage the unpredictability of the employee's attendance, and while it didn't doubt the absences were genuine, they were putting pressure on the rest of the team on a frequent basis. The practice manager was unsure if the practice could take action because of the generous sick pay scheme that was in place.
How we helped
Peninsula noticed that the practice did not have an absence management procedure in place, and suggested one be implemented so employees were aware of what was expected. It was also able to reassure the practice manager that absence levels with a disabled employee can be safely addressed and advised on how this can be done.
The practice implemented the absence management system and began to track absence of all employees. Peninsula advised discounting disability-related absences from the absence totals to ensure that the employee in question was not treated less favourably because of their condition.
However, there continued to be several absences that were unrelated to the disability and Peninsula directed the practice on implementing an informal warning, which was followed by a formal warning when attendance did not improve.
To do this, the practice was advised on how to arrange a formal hearing and ensure the employee's right to be accompanied was complied with, what to say and how to convey the official decision to the employee.
Peninsula advised informing the employee that a failure to reduce absence would mean the formal procedure would be progressed and could lead to further, harsher sanctions.
Once the formal warning was issued, the practice began to see an immediate improvement in the employee's attendance levels. Morale in the team improved as well, with less time spent dealing with one employee and more to spend on helping patients throughout the practice.
When relationships turn sour
A practice had implemented its performance management procedure with an employee who had been failing to work to satisfactory standards. The practice manager then heard that the employee had allegedly been spreading rumours around the practice about her. When this was addressed, the employee resigned and complained that she had been constructively dismissed.
- Particularly in a small practice, it's important that working relationships are maintained because employees are working together closely all of the time. It's also clearly problematic when there are allegations that junior staff are attempting to undermine a more senior member, which can lead to a loss of respect for the professionalism required at work.
- The constructive dismissal complaint was also tricky; if a claim to the employment tribunal was successful, the practice could have a significant financial award made against them.
How we helped
Peninsula was able to advise on the most appropriate way to respond to the allegations to ensure that professionalism was maintained and formal procedures were followed, which was especially important given that the rumours involved the practice manager. It also put forward the options for resolving matters after the constructive dismissal allegation was made.
Because the circumstances were viewed as potential misconduct of the employee, it was appropriate for the disciplinary procedure to be invoked. This meant an initial investigation could be carried out to ascertain whether there was a case to answer, and whether other team members could confirm that the employee had indeed spread the rumours, as alleged. Once this had taken place, the practice was advised to hold an investigation meeting with the employee without delay.
After the employee had resigned, Peninsula explained to the practice that it could either fight the allegation through the tribunal process, or attempt to settle the claim with no admission of fault to avoid the time and effort involved in the tribunal process.
Because of the irrevocable breakdown of the relationship, the practice chose to settle the claim in order to draw a line under the episode and allow both parties to move on.
Particularly in a small practice, it's important that working relationships are maintained because employees are working together closely all of the time.
Dealing with sensitive misconduct allegations
A practice began a disciplinary procedure after allegations that an employee had sworn at a patient. While the complaint was being investigated, the employee in question became verbally abusive to the practice manager.
The practice manager was upset and hurt by the employee's actions and, as a result, did not feel comfortable holding further meetings about to the original allegations.
How we helped
It was apparent to Peninsula that the practice manager felt intimidated by the employee's actions, but also that it was necessary to continue with the process. Various options were discussed regarding how to proceed.
Peninsula's adviser suggested that Peninsula's Face2face service could help resolve to the situation. With this service, an employment law expert holds a meeting with the employee on behalf of the employer, meaning that no-one from the practice would need to be present in the hearing itself. The practice manager wouldn't have to speak to the employee within the disciplinary hearing environment.
Through the Face2face service, an impartial consultant held the disciplinary hearing. After listening to the employee's side, the consultant found them to be insufficient as a defence to the allegations and recommended that the correct course of action would be dismissal. The practice manager accepted the recommendation and the employee was dismissed. The employee did not appeal.
- If MDU members find themselves in a similar situation, they are able to purchase the Face2face service from Peninsula at a preferential rate.