Employer Resources Newsletter - June 2022

Posted on 29 Jun 2022
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Over half of the world’s population is on social media and in Ireland, it is estimated that there are 3.79 million social media users who spend an average of two hours daily on various platforms. Given these figures, there is no other communications channels that have the same reach or provide the opportunity to communicate and influence people.

Generally speaking, employers understand that employees will access their social media accounts during the working hours given most have access to the internet as part of the job or access it on their phones. So, it is important to have a social media policy in place or ensure the use of social media is part of the Internet Usage Policy, clearly stating what is acceptable and unacceptable and outlining the disciplinary process associated with it. This should include comments about work colleagues, sharing sensitive data relating to the employer, its service users and even other similar organisations, posting photos or videos from work events without consent and what is considered excessive use.

Most organisations have their own social media accounts that allow them to advertise, provide updates to their service users/ community and engage online. Given the ability to target people based on age, gender, interests and location, it is an effective tool that forms an integral part of most marketing strategies.

But for the nonprofit sector, social media is much more than a marketing tool, it provides powerful channels to tell your story, raise awareness for your cause and build and engage with a community of supporters that can become advocates. And, social media strategies and programmes can be tailored to suit even the most modest of budgets. It can be very effective for fund raising when used correctly; the Ice bucket challenge is a perfect example of that!

But social media needs to be planned and managed sensibly by experienced people. Content should be thought through clearly, ensuring it is aligned with the goals and objectives of the nonprofit organisation. The nature of social media means that an inappropriate or ill-considered post or comment can quickly go viral and the public backlash can cause considerable reputational damage that will live online for years.

Social media shouldn’t just be used to push out content or fundraise; it’s a way to connect with people by listening to what they have to say, answering questions or giving them an opportunity to tell their own story.

Over the past number of years, we’ve seen an increase in brands using “Social Media Influencers” as part of their sales and marketing strategies. The right influencers, celebrities or sportspeople can become ambassadors for your nonprofit organisation, adding another voice to help tell your story. If they have a particular connection with your cause, they can share their own story in a powerful, authentic and emotive way.

Monitoring your social media channels is also important to measure your return on investment as well as providing real-time information that helps you understand what’s working or needs improvement. Social listening also provides insights on issues that matter to the public, helping nonprofit organisations to deliver the right message at the right time. 

Employers also need to appreciate the positive impact employees’ use of Social Media can have on their organisation, particularly supporting recruitment and boosting the employer brand. It is also a highly effective communications channel to engage employees who are working remotely. If you consider your own organisation, there are probably many teams and colleagues with their own specific WhatsApp group that they use to talk, share information, etc. It can encourage team bonding and interaction among colleagues. However, it is essential that clear parameters are in place in terms of using such messaging groups, as cyberbullying has become an issue for employers, again highlighting the importance of having a clear and up to date policy in place.

Facebook and Instagram have always been considered personal platforms while LinkedIn is considered a professional channel where it is more acceptable to encourage or ask employees to share or like organisational posts. However, employees must have the option of voluntarily doing this. And, if an employee is expressing a personal opinion on work-related issues, they should clearly stipulate that this is a personal opinion and does not reflect the view of the employer.

As already mentioned, Social Media is an effective recruitment tool. But employers need to ensure that the language used is in line with the overall brand and its messaging and does not discriminate against applicants.

It has also become a common practice to ‘Google’ search job applicants ahead of or during the recruitment process. However, employers should be extremely cautious about the use of any information garnered, in case it could be considered to discriminate against a potential candidate.  

Social Media is part of most people’s daily lives and is increasingly used by organisations, clearly demonstrating its power as a communications channel. It should be embraced as opposed to feared by nonprofit organisations and employers should have a balanced approach to its use by employees. Employers need to carefully consider the personal and professional boundaries of Social Media, together with the benefits and risks. Expectations can be clarified and addressed in the Social Media Policy which should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the ever-changing Social Media landscape and new and emerging platforms.

Employee disciplined for fixing administrative error

In all cases that are disciplinary by nature it is of paramount importance that proper procedures are followed and that a thorough examination of the evidence is conducted. Within the nonprofit sector mitigating liability at this step will prove beneficial not least to ensure natural justice is applied but also to alleviate any potential liability.

Key learnings

When carrying out investigations, from the below we can see it is crucial that all relevant material is sought and considered during the investigation procedure, by the person tasked with carrying out the investigation.  In addition, the investigator should ensure all relevant information is taken into account, and all concerns are listened to and considered. In this instance, they were not and this resulted in a flawed disciplinary process and accordingly resulted in an unfair decision around a disciplinary sanction.

However, the adjudicator found there was no conflict in process, in that the person drawing up the terms of reference was the same person to undertake the Disciplinary process. 

Background

The employer is a healthcare service provider, and the employee is on a salary of €45,000 pa.

Summary of Workers Case

The employee works in a healthcare setting.  She was issued with a Final Written Warning for editing medical documents with a 12-month duration which was reduced to a written warning for a 9-month duration on appeal. She was also issued with a demotion, but this was reversed upon appeal.

The employee admitted to changing a diagnosis on a patients record following the request of the patient’s family. The employee submitted that she investigated a matter raised by the family and upon investigation, it became apparent that the original diagnosis had not been entered into the system in accordance with the diagnosis that the consultant had written. In effect the employee submitted that she had amended a clerical error.

The employee claimed that the procedures were not followed by the person who conducted the disciplinary hearing was the same person who raised the Terms of Reference for the investigation. The employee suggested that the investigation did not consider the explanation she put forward for the correction, but rather only considered the allegation against the employee.

The employee claimed that she sought clarification as to the allegations made and how they referred to her, but that this was not forthcoming. The employee also submitted that the disciplinary hearing breached the principals of natural justice and fairness, and that her response was not given full weight and consideration. As there was an allegation that there was an existing written procedure in place which the investigator was not aware of and did not consider. 

The employee is seeking a recommendation of removing the disciplinary sanction from her personnel file and seeking compensation for the unfair procedures and the long delay in concluding matters.

Summary of Employer’s Case

The employer submitted that a complaint was made regarding the change made to a patient record by a non-medical member of staff. The employer claimed that this change resulted in a situation which impacted on patient safety and was considered serious in nature. They went on to say that the matter was investigated, and a disciplinary hearing took place following the outcome of a separate investigation. The disciplinary hearing took place in a manner that was just and equitable and the employee was allowed to bring a representative with her.

The employer submitted that after the witness interviews took place, the employee was provided with an opportunity to review all the information.  A draft report was issued in November to the Complainant with the final report issuing some six weeks later in December. The employer submitted that the appeal was also heard by individuals who had no prior involvement in the case.

Conclusions

In conducting their investigation, the Adjudicator considered all relevant submissions presented by the parties. The investigation and disciplinary process took less than six months to commence and conclude. Based on this timeline, the Adjudicator found no undue delay in undertaking by either the investigation or the disciplinary process.

The terms of reference were drawn up by the Head of Human Resources for the investigation that took place, and the disciplinary process began after the investigation process was concluded. The Head of HR then undertook the Disciplinary process. 

On the basis of this, the Adjudicator was not satisfied that a breach of natural justice or fairness took place, simply on the basis that the terms of reference were written by the same person as conducted the disciplinary hearing.

However, in this instance it became apparent during the evidence that the investigator did not investigate all relevant matters – there was an allegation by the Complainant that there was an existing written procedure in place which the investigator was not aware of and did not consider.

It also became apparent that the employee was not allowed to raise this or, in the alternative if she did, it was not considered.

Having considered all the written and oral evidence, the Adjudicator was not satisfied that the disciplinary process was flawed but it appears that the investigative process was not fluid enough to permit other relevant information to be taken into account. This therefore resulted in a flawed disciplinary process and accordingly resulted in an unfair decision. The employee is seeking to have the disciplinary sanction expunged from her record.

The Adjudicator also noted that it became apparent that the patient record system was too rigid to allow for entering the full range of different diagnosis. The employee submitted that she authored a procedure in 2009 for the amendment of clerical errors on patient records but this did not seem to be followed by all staff (or indeed any staff).

The Adjudicator acknowledged that it  appeared  that the employee acted at all times in the interests of accuracy and patient safety however, she took it upon herself to amend a patient record. The employee only informed the employer of the data change after she had undertaken it.

Decision

Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 requires that the Adjudicator make a recommendation in relation to the dispute. Having considered all the written and oral submissions made in relation to this dispute, the Adjudicator made the following recommendations. That the employer draft written procedures to rectify administrative errors which may occur from time to time and arrange training for its staff to ensure a consistent and transparent approach by all administrative staff. The full list of conditions diagnosed by the medical staff members should be available to administrative staff when entering patient data.

The Adjudicator recommended that the employer adopt a procedure which allows their patient data System to be added to, in areas such as the naming of patient diagnosis.

The Adjudicator recommended that the disciplinary sanction that has elapsed be expunged from the employee’s employment record. Finally the Adjudicator recommended that the employee receive the sum of €4,500 in recognition of the fundamental flaws in the investigation of this matter.

Minimum Wage to be Replaced by Living Wage by 2026

Plans to phase out the minimum wage in favour of the living wage by 2026 were announced by Government. Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar brought the plans to Cabinet earlier this week that would see the gap between the minimum wage, which is currently €10.50, and the living wage, currently set at €12.17, close over the coming four years.

The living wage will be set at 60% of the median wage in any given year. It is the minimum hourly wage that should enable workers to afford to live at an agreed socially acceptable minimum standard of living.

While the exact living wage would depend on the median wage in a given year, the Department of Enterprise gave indicative figures illustrating how the living wage would change over the coming four years based on current projections; €12.17 p/h in 2022, €12.54 in 2023, €12.92 in 2024, €13.30 in 2025, and €13.70 in 2026.

The new plans would also mean that the living wage would become mandatory for all employers by 2026. However, the economic circumstances of the country may delay the proposed changes.

Our HR Barometer Report 6.1 found that 44% of nonprofit organisations have or will increase salaries in 2022 but at a lower rate of 2.7% than the overall average of 5.3%. A move to the Living Wage will no doubt put further pressure on some organisations in the sector.

Domestic Violence Leave & Child Sick Leave Recommended to be Included in the Work Life Balance Bill

It was recommended that a new child sick leave and ten days domestic violence leave be included in the proposed Work Life Balance Bill.

The Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth published it pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Bill, which was approved by Cabinet back in April.

The Work Life Balance Bill aims to bring the European Union’s work-life balance directive into Irish law. The directive seeks to ensure a better work-life balance for parents and carers, as well as encouraging a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women.

The committee also recommended that lone parents should be entitled to ten days leave for medical care purposes, double the usual amount to account for the absent parent, and that other targeted supports for single parent families should be developed by relevant Government Depts.

The legislation, which is expected to be enacted before the Dáil summer recess in July, is also expected to extend entitlement to paid breastfeeding and lactation breaks from six months to two years.

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