One of the benefits of membership for practice principals is access to a free employment law advice helpline. Here we look at the types of issues you've faced - and how we can help.

If you're a DDU principal member, you're able to receive free employment law advice provided by Peninsula, a consultancy firm offering advice on employment law and health and safety issues within the workplace.

As well as the employment law service, you and your team can also access Peninsula's employee assistance programme through Health Assured. This entitles employees of the practice to call and seek advice on an array of day-to-day issues they may come across within their personal life. Groupcare DDU members also receive free access to a health and safety advice service.

Your concerns

The types of concerns Peninsula helps DDU practice principal members with vary widely. Below, William Griffiths, priority employment law business partner at Peninsula, describes three common DDU 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.

Handling grievances

The issue

A new dental nurse put in a request for annual leave. Due to operational pressures during the days asked for, the request was declined - as was a further request for unpaid leave.

After the nurse was signed off sick with work-related stress, the practice received a grievance from her complaining that she had been discriminated against because of her disability; she suffered from dyslexia.

  • The practice was accused of discrimination. Discrimination claims, if successful, have no limit on the compensation that can be awarded at employment tribunal.
How we helped

Peninsula was able to guide the practice through what's expected in a good response a grievance, making sure all corners were explored while investigating the complaint, and while keeping to the contractual procedures.

The practice was advised to implement its grievance procedure. The Peninsula adviser ensured the practice knew about the nurse's rights in relation to bringing a companion to the hearing, and recommended a full investigation to identify whether there was any substance to the complaint.

The outcome

The investigation was able to ascertain that there was no evidence the nurse had been treated less favourably because of her condition; in fact, the practice had put in place several support mechanisms in relation to the nurse's dyslexia and found the nurse's subsequent appeal to the decision was also swiftly dealt with. The matter was closed, with the practice deemed to have satisfactorily handled the discrimination allegations.

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Dealing with employees on long term sick leave

The issue

An employee, who was also a good family friend of the practice principal, was diagnosed with a serious neurological condition. The employee was on long term sick leave due to the condition and the practice was unable to cope with the absence. The principal knew that the situation had to be resolved but was aware that this could involve long, protracted procedures.

How we helped

Peninsula advised the practice of the options available for responding to long term sickness in an organisation. In the immediate term, this included advice about payment to the employee and, in the longer term, methods for bringing the case to a conclusion.

In order to avoid a potentially stressful medical capability procedure, the Peninsula adviser explained the option of a settlement agreement. This type of agreement is used to terminate employment quickly and without the necessary procedure. The employee receives a sum of money by way of settlement and as a reflection of the fact that proper procedures are absent. In exchange, the employee is barred from making an employment tribunal claim in relation to those circumstances.

The outcome

The principal chose to take the option of the settlement agreement, which the employee accepted. The employee received a sum of money and their employment was terminated swiftly - to the satisfaction of both parties - therefore avoiding a full medical capability procedure.

A redundancy is still a dismissal, and is subject to the same rules on fairness as a dismissal for misconduct.

Managing staff redundancy

The issue

Unavoidable financial pressures forced a practice to make some redundancies among its receptionist staff. Three receptionists were currently employed and the number had to be reduced to one.

  • Redundancy procedures can present many problems for employers. A redundancy is still a dismissal, and is subject to the same rules on fairness as a dismissal for misconduct. Having to select employees to make redundant adds extra layers of complication, both personally and professionally.
How we helped

Peninsula was able to guide the practice through all the elements of a fair redundancy process. This included making sure that selection criteria could be objectively assessed, rather than based on opinion, as well as the number of meetings to hold, what to say during the meetings and how to calculate redundancy pay.

The practice was advised to inform all receptionists that they were at risk of redundancy, and that two of them would be made redundant. They were advised on how long the process would take and that they would have the ability to appeal a decision at the end of the process.

Peninsula helped the practice agree on appropriate selection criteria by which to assess the redundancy pool. From a business point of view, the receptionists' skills, experience and disciplinary record were decided as being appropriate considerations to ensure that the remaining receptionist was the most suitable employee to retain.

The Peninsula adviser also explained that it's important to address disciplinary matters in a timely fashion. As well as its intended purpose, this can provide a tangible method for objectively assessing who is the 'best' employee to keep when faced with redundancy.

The outcome

One receptionist had additional skills in dental nursing and no disciplinary record; she scored highest in the assessment and was offered a full time role as a dental nurse.

The remaining two receptionists had close scores, but one was slightly lower than the other due to a live disciplinary warning on his record. He was therefore selected for redundancy, and the middle scoring employee was retained as the single remaining receptionist.

This page was correct at publication on 17/05/2021. 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.