Posted on 25th November 2013 by Stanley in Case Confidential
Croner’s team of HR advice line experts have shared a recent case with us which demonstrates the need to have clear policies and foresight to avoid serious issues.
End of day checks by the employer highlighted serious concerns in one of the Nursery rooms. The incident was in the toddler room where the manager discovered a sharp kitchen knife which had been left on the side within easy reach of the children.
Luckily none of the children had got hold of the knife but the employer was understandably concerned that this had happened and could have resulted in serious consequences. The knife had been left with a plate of fruit that had been cut up for the children’s morning snack and had therefore been there all day.
The next morning the employer spoke to the Toddler Room Leader and having listened to the employee’s explanation was not satisfied with their response and chose to suspend them.
It was at this point the employer contacted the Croner Employment advice line and discussed the merits of the case and next steps with one of their expert HR advisers.
On the face of it, it would appear that despite the employee’s long service she had put the children at severe risk and could well face summary dismissal. However once the issue was further investigated it became apparent that the Nursery procedures were non-existent and had the possibility of putting not only the company at risk but more importantly the children.
Every morning, the fruit was brought to each room along with a kitchen knife but there was no facility to safely store the knife, nor did anyone come to collect the knife, resulting in it being left out, which clearly exposed the children to risk.
The next consideration was that this arrangement had been ongoing for many years and had been common practice for all employees’ not just the one suspended. The difference in this case was that the employee had failed to remove the knife at the end of the day (unlike the others), therefore highlighting the issue to management. However, the risk to the children throughout the day remained the same.
While there is no doubt this was a very serious issue, the employee had not acted ‘out of the norm’ and the employer, after considerable reflection, decided not to pursue disciplinary action. Instead a clear policy was put in place and the fact that failing to adhere to this would be considered gross misconduct was clearly set out.
This case was a prime example of the need for employers to consider clear policies and to foresee the risks they faced prior to them actually arising.
We strongly recommend that you contact the Croner team for advice on any HR matters arising in your nursery by calling 0844 5618111 quoting scheme number 80439 – dot2dot