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Employment Law Case Update: Williams v Meddygfa Rhydback Surgery

Sep 21, 2017

Getting good performance from staff requires more than rebukes – it’s where proper procedure is essential. The case of Williams v Meddygfa Rhydback Surgery illustrates how not to do it, especially when a manager is himself the object of many complaints.

Mrs Williams commenced her employment at the Meddygfa Rhydbach Surgery on 23 September 1986 as a receptionist. In 1996 she was promoted to practice manager; the most senior non-clinical role. Between 2009 and 2014 the surgery went through financial and personnel changes following the retirement of two senior partners in succession. There was a long running history of difficult interpersonal relationships within the practice between administrative/clinical staff and the partners, but particularly involving Dr Smits.

Various staff members raised complaints in 1997, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. In 2010, ten members of staff complained in writing that Dr Smits’ manner was causing distress, among other things. There had also been longstanding concerns over the years regarding Mrs Williams’ performance which had been informally raised with her. In June 2014, Mrs Williams was called to a meeting with the partners regarding concerns about her performance. She was not informed that she was to be the object of formal performance management although a further meeting was scheduled.

In July 2015, a meeting was arranged between Mrs Williams and the partners. During this meeting Dr Smits raised his voice, gesticulating with papers in his hand and waving them in the direction of Mrs Williams before eventually banging his hand against the door in anger and frustration. In August 2015, Mrs Williams raised a grievance to the Health Board and submitted a further formal grievance to the partners for bullying and harassment. A grievance investigation was carried out; Mrs Williams’ grievance was not upheld, resulting in her resignation two days later.

Mrs Williams brought an unfair dismissal claim against the surgery and the partners. The Judge held that the surgery failed for a considerable length of time to manage Mrs Williams’ performance effectively (she had not undergone any formal capability procedures) and failed to investigate and manage perceived misconduct within the disciplinary procedures at all. The Judge went on further and stated that the surgery was not well placed to dismiss Mrs Williams fairly; the partners failed to issue warnings and follow formal performance management procedures and then waited for more serious errors by Mrs Williams before dismissing her. Mrs Williams’ unfair dismissal claim was upheld by the Employment Tribunal.

This case is a reminder that employers should follow correct performance management procedures when dealing with underperforming employees. Employees should be made aware of performance standards and expectations, and they should be afforded the opportunity to improve through support and training.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 21/09/2017.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.