Care home operators have to ensure that employees are working to the required standards.
If they do not, the welfare of their residents is potentially put at risk. Exemplar Health Care had a case in which a fourth disciplinary charge was proven against an employee who had already three, live, final warnings for previous breaches.
Trudy Duke, HR and Training Director, was shocked when the company's employment law advisers recommended that the employee should receive another final, written warning. The company had to follow their advice because otherwise Exemplar's insurance would not have covered the cost of any subsequent employment tribunal. For Ms Duke, it was the final straw. She explained: 'We were becoming increasingly frustrated with the advice given by the insurance company. Having someone on four live, final, written warnings doesn't make any sense. We were getting to the point where we felt we couldn't dismiss anybody.'
Exemplar, whose head office is in Rotherham, employs 2,500 people at its 30 homes, only five of which house elderly residents. The remainder are for young adults with complex, specialist needs and it is vital for the business to ensure that the relationship between staff and service users is kept on a sound, professional footing.
Ms Duke and her colleagues had used Collinson Grant at a previous company and wanted to use our services again. Exemplar, however, did not want to abandon its insurance policy, which covers other risks as well as employment law. So they approached the insurer, Abbey Legal Protection, and explained that Exemplar wanted to obtain its employment law advice from us, but remain covered by the policy. After discussions, an agreement was reached. 'The insurers remain liable for the cost of any tribunals, provided we seek and follow the advice of Collinson Grant in each case,' said Ms Duke.
Although the combination of an insurance policy and Collinson Grant's retainer service was more expensive than the previous arrangements, she said it had proved to be better for the business. 'It's an additional cost - our premium wasn't reduced. But the reason it works is that Collinson Grant gives us the advice we need at the point when we ask for it, it's not led by anything else. We have been able to manage staff appropriately and proportionately, as we should. When somebody has to be dismissed, we need to be able to do that. Our home managers have to be able to make decisions based on what is right for the business. Now that we use Collinson Grant, they don't even have to think about the insurance. In the business we are in, safeguarding issues have to be dealt with seriously. You can't just give someone a slap on the wrist and tell them not to do it again.'
As well as disciplinary matters, our team supports Exemplar's managers with telephone and e-mail advice on contracts of employment, managing performance, attendance, fairness at work, equal opportunities and fair and practical policies. We keep operational managers up to date on the law and also help to ensure that employment practices and decisions help the business to achieve its goals. Our advice is pragmatic, commercial and down-to-earth.