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Case Study: Nursery Squabbles!

The Client
A children's nursery whose staff were not working together as well as they should, causing disharmony and claims of bullying.

The Challenge
The business provided nursery care for young children, but a dispute had arisen between the owner and one of her employees. One employee (A) had caused some distress to another employee (B), who was pregnant at the time. This gave rise to a complaint of bullying from employee B. The owner had issued a warning to employee A as she had reached, "the end of her tether." There had been a number of other incidents which had resulted in some parents wanting to remove their children from the nursery and the owner was understandably concerned and blamed this all on employee A. In addition there were potentially some cultural communication issues as employee A came originally from an eastern-bloc country. However, the business owner had not followed the appropriate procedures in issuing the warning and employee A had now submitted an appeal. The owner approached her solicitors for assistance.

The Solution
The solicitors explained that it could ultimately end up at a tribunal as there had been a number of procedural mistakes made and that at this stage it would be potentially seen as premature for them to get involved. Instead they contacted Helen Astill of Cherington HR and asked her to get involved to correct the issues as far as possible. The nursery was a small employer and there was no-one else internally to hear the appeal, so Helen dealt with that, remedying the procedural errors and clarifying the situation. She worked closely with the solicitors to ensure that they were briefed of the outcome and her recommendations.

The Results
The appeal was partly upheld, but some aspects were rejected. However, Helen made several recommendations on how the working relationships could be rebuilt and that a dignity at work policy should be introduced. The owner was also more aware of the procedures she should have followed and was relieved that all parties felt that they had been treated with consideration and were happy with the end result. The owner was encouraged to talk to her solicitor at an earlier stage whenever a problem arose in future. The solicitors were pleased with the feedback from the nursery owner and have since referred Helen to other client businesses needing HR assistance to tie into legal advice they give to their clients.

Key words: Bullying; Grievance; Appeal; Maternity; Ethnic Origin; Discrimination; Dignity at Work; Solicitor

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