Article by Croner-i
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Even the best-run practice with the most reliable staff can sometimes encounter a difficult HR problem. Here Croner-i looks at how to approach some common issues.
Practice policies and protocols should form the basis for dealing with employee behaviour. Behavioural or competency issues need to be investigated carefully in line with the relevant policy, for example in the case of an employee failing to deal with the taking of blood correctly a thorough reading of the practice’s infection control policy is required. In a recent case dealt with by Croner-i employment advisors, a prescribing policy was the focal point for an employee who was suspected of forging a GP’s signature on prescriptions, enabling her access to insomnia medication for herself.
Good paper trails are fundamental when it comes to practices giving themselves the best defence, should that become necessary. By constantly keeping policies under review and up-to-date, and taking good notes of all discussions and meetings with employees, practices will already have all the evidence needed should a dispute arise.
Employees with Health Problems
The procedures to adopt for members of staff who have been absent from work because of their own health condition is a recurring theme in many organisations, including practices. Robust monitoring and recording of all absences are the starting point for managing these. Short-term sporadic absence for reasons ranging from a bad back to coughs and colds are best dealt with under a disciplinary procedure where absence reaches a level deemed unacceptable.
Longer-term absence, for example in the case of a GP who is suffering from stress, requires a different approach. Long-term absence brings into question the individual’s capability rather than behaviour. Practices are advised to gather evidence with an occupational health report to get an expert opinion on the detailed interplay between the individual’s current and longer-term abilities and their particular work tasks.
The cornerstone of the employment relationship is the contract of employment which sets out the terms, conditions, rules and expectations of both employer and employee. Questions regarding PMS and GMS contracts, queries about overtime allocation and entitlement to annual leave should all be covered by a detailed and clear contract of employment. A periodic review of contractual terms for new starters should be undertaken to ensure that they keep pace with changes to legal requirements.
Although grievances do not occur as frequently as disciplinary procedures, both involve a similar style of investigation. Examples of grievances include alleged unfair treatment regarding annual leave allocation; allegations from practice managers of unfair treatment from partners; and complaints regarding references that have been provided for ex-employees. A practice’s responsibility to an employee does not stop as soon as they have left the practice, particularly when it comes to grievances.
Flexible Working Requests
The right to request flexible working and new working practices set up as a result of the pandemic will undoubtedly lead to increasing numbers of employees asking for their working hours to be amended. For example, members of staff may want to work from home more often. A procedure should always be followed to manage these requests and it is often possible to accommodate some kind of flexibility, even if it is a different working pattern than that originally requested by the employee.
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