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Why experienced NASRA and legal support are essential in facing complaints. 

Tony Gregg

The HSE Disciplinary Procedure is a process used to investigate complaints made against staff in all areas of their performance, conduct and attendance. It is set out in four stages with Stage One being set to deal with the less serious allegations rising to Stage Four for the most serious. 

If a complaint is issued then  the first action on behalf of the line manager should be an attempt to resolve the issue under pre- procedure informal counselling which is normally set aside for issues less serious and not requiring independent investigation. 

It should be noted that the HSE can bypass Stage One, Two and Three and go straight to Stage Four depending on the severity of the allegation. 

At this point the HSE usually appoint a commissioner for the investigation which will in turn ask for a preliminary gathering of facts. 

If the evidence collected suggests that an investigation is required, an independent investigation into the matter will take place. 

If the allegation against the respondent is upheld a Stage Four Disciplinary hearing will take place. 

Unfortunately, we have had three such cases this year with one ending up before the courts and with the court overturning a decision to dismiss. 

A detailed explanation of the procedure is available on the HSE Web site, and we advise that all staff familiarise themselves with the process. 

As is provided by the Disciplinary Procedure all employees facing a complaint are entitled to the original complaint signed and in writing before issuing a response to the allegation. This is provided for in S/1 1 06 of 2000. 

You are also legally entitled to representation, and for your representative to accompany you to any meeting regarding the allegation. 

We strongly advise that once a member receives notice of a complaint against them that they immediately notify their PNA/NASRA representative and not to provide any statements until having held counsel. 

In some recent cases staff have been accompanied to meetings regarding industrial relations issues by inexperienced friends or colleagues and have managed only to complicate further the process, and jeopardise the prospects of a successful outcome  

In some cases, staff unwittingly have unnecessarily implicated themselves following poor advice. 

The process of defending yourself against an allegation can be a daunting experience, and there is no substitute for competent representation as unfortunately some have found out to their cost in the past. 

It is of course unfortunate for any staff member to be formally progressing through the disciplinary process, and in our experience, it is always a source of huge anxiety for the member. Therefore, it is essential that you have the support of your trade union. 

It is also worth mentioning again, as we reported in a previous Frontline article, that the support of an experienced and competent legal team is essential should the issue reach beyond the parameters of the HSE and your case requires mentioning before the courts. The bottom line is if an allegation of any kind is put to you, it is advisable to contact us immediately

We will cover the issue of the grievance process in the next Frontline.