Tips for Attending Meetings etc.

Some tips on dealing with the practicalities of suspension and the disciplinary process.

It sounds very defensive but sadly you may be very surprised at the things managers may claim against you.

As a preliminary

  • Belong to a union that you believe will represent your interests effectively and provide a good service.
  • Attend branch meetings and help with activities.
  • Keep a note of essential phone numbers.

When there is an issue

  • Never attend a meeting with managers until you know what is the purpose of the meeting and who will be present.
  • Never attend a meeting with managers on your own. Always take a union representative or experienced work colleague. They will help you make sense of what is being said.
  • Arrange to see your union representative as soon as you have had the allegation sent to you. You should also receive a copy of your organisation’s disciplinary process so that you will know what should happen.
  • If the suspension relates to a particular event, record what you can remember of it as soon as possible. You may be surprised at how quickly you forget things.
  • Make notes of what is being said at every contact with anyone so that you can remember and reflect on what has been said later. You will probably be feeling so stressed it will be difficult to absorb information. Better still, record the meeting. As a matter of courtesy, you will have to let the person conducting the meeting, know at the beginning of the meeting or prior to it and you may be refused permission. If your manager has nothing to hide, they should agree.
  • You may need to send a copy of your notes of any meeting to the manager to confirm that you have understood what has been said correctly. It is then up to the manager to write and clarify any points with which they disagree.
  • Keep your notes in a file and start a diary so that you can quickly see what has happened and when.
  • Use letters and emails to communicate. People say things on the telephone which they may later deny or claim has been misunderstood.
  • Get someone to check all your documents such as letters, notes of meetings and notes for investigations. You need them to check clarity and carefulness of expression so that you don’t damage your case.
  • When you send letters, think who else should see what you are writing and send them a copy.
  • During meetings, request regular breaks so that you can collect your thoughts. Your organisation will probably allow a family member to accompany you to support you, though not to speak.
  • Following the investigation, if no disciplinary action is to be taken but there is to be re-training or something similar, ask for a copy of the report. There may be errors that need correcting on which the re-training issues etc, are based. Organisations are being encouraged to be open about reports on employees. The report is about you and you should have the right to see what is being written.
  • The investigating officer is a colleague of the person/people who suspended you. It may be that their report is favourable to their colleagues’ viewpoint rather than yours. If the report is objective, fair and impartial, you are very fortunate.
  • If the managers recognise that they have over-reacted by suspending you but are unwilling to apologise and re-instate you quickly, they may feel they have to justify what they have done by recommending counselling, mentorship, re-training or something similar.
  • In the current system, unless your managers proceed with disciplinary action, you are unable to appeal. You may be able to have some modification of what is being recommended if you can provide some evidence for your good practice but this is difficult when you are banned from work and talking to colleagues – all part of the injustice and unfairness of the disciplinary process.

When the whole thing is over – 

  • Store your notes and letters and records and keep them. You may want to sue the organisation in the future (if you have a lot of money) or write your memoirs!
  • Ask to see your personal file to view the documents entered there. That may be enlightening.
  • One year later, ask to see your personal file again to ensure all references to the events have been removed. You have served your time.

Keeping it all in perspective

  • An enormous amount of damage has been done to you and your family and friends.
  • It may be that you are a very generous and forgiving person and bear no ill-feelings towards the people responsible for the suspension and the ensuing investigation and possible disciplinary action. That is brilliant and well done to you.
  • On the other hand, it is natural to want to hit back and hurt the people who have been responsible for the suspension and the ensuing investigation and possible disciplinary action. It may even be that you have reason to believe there has been some personal animosity against you.
  • If it helps to protect you from some very strong and negative feelings which may cloud your judgement and damage your cause, as well as possibly damage your health, try and remember that these people are also human beings, with family and friends.  Don’t be reduced to their thoughtlessness and apparent inhumanity. Try and remember some of their good and positive work. If their work is really poor, contact the Nursing and Midwifery Council and seek advice about their competence to practice and what are your responsibilities in that case.