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02nd October 2017

Employee Consultation: Are You in Control?

Health and social care settings can be fraught with competing priorities. Ensuring that staff are up to speed with developments in the home is essential for its smooth running. Having systems in place to monitor the environment and ensure a consistent professional approach make residents feel safe in their environment and staff assured that they are working as a team and not in isolation.

How Do I Effectively Consult Staff?

Whilst staff will have signed up to a job description and will understand what is required of them and training to address gaps in skill set or as a requirement of the role; there are other valuable ways to communicate with staff as follows:

  • Regular staff team meeting – an opportunity for the manager to share any corporate or local changes that affect the way the service operates, i.e.: legislations changes.
  • Handover – an exchange of daily activities, concerns of the home which are passed on from one shift to the next – a daily log book can record significant entries.
  • Supervision – a time when individual staff can share experiences, concerns, ways to improve practice with their line manager and get feedback.
  • E-bulleting/intranet briefings, etc. – sharing information from the management to staff (this is a common method of communication in organisations with multi-sites)
  • Staff suggestions/comment slips with a secure box to put them in – it is important that there are outcomes which are shared with the staff without naming the individual staff member who suggested it.
  • Away days – this helps the team unite in group exercises. This should be away from the service/home (cover does need to be considered). Remember that this needs to be carefully planned so that it adds value to the team.
  • Staff noticeboards, memos, etc.

This is not an exhaustive list just a few basic suggestions.

Surely Staff Don’t Need to Know Everything, Do They?

Staff do need to be consulted on things which affects how they work and their environment. There are however somethings which you do not have to share. You do not have to provide information according to the HSE (INDG 232) if:

  • it would be against the interests of national security or against the law;
  • it is about someone who has not given their permission for it to be given out;
  • it would, other than for reasons of its effect on health and safety, cause substantial injury to the organisation, or if supplied by someone else, to the business of that person;
  • You have obtained the information for the purpose of any legal proceedings.

What Do I Have to Consult On?

It is important for a service manager to share information with staff and for there to be a healthy dialogue. Typical issues that managers would consult on would be:

  • Changes in working practices, i.e.: new shift rotas which give flexible working for staff with children (a late start or an early finish which allows parents to drop their children at school or pick them up at the end of the day).
  • The introduction of new equipment, i.e.: a new type of hoist, resident alarm system, etc.
  • The introduction of new procedures and policies.
  • Changes in legislation or stakeholder requirements, i.e.: CQC or new best practice guidelines – Whilst some items will have to be followed, i.e. a legal requirement; discussing with staff and getting their feedback gives staff input rather than demanding they must do.
  • Refurbishments and safety measure to ensure staff and service users are safe.
  • New training and new technologies
  • If a care home , new residents coming to the home which may have challenges the staff team may not have dealt with before and what training will be provided, what measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of all person and to make this attainable as well as broadening the skill set of staff.
  • Anything which presents additional risk and measure to effectively manage that risk – here staff can have valuable input, some may be able to draw on experience from other care homes/services.
  • Specialist staff who may be employed or agencies used to provide resource where the skill set required may be brief or needed infrequently.

Again, this is not exhaustive and other reasons could be added.

What Are the Benefits of Employee Consultation?

Whilst some have been mentioned already, the most important part of consulting staff is to get them on board by giving them opportunity to share their experiences and concerns and coming to an agreement moving forward. You cannot please everyone all the time, you can however ensure that all staff have an opportunity to share and be part of a valued team.  As manager, you will make the final decision, however staff will have been consulted in the process which could result in operating slightly different to originally planned. The staff team are more likely to support you if they have been involved. A couple of other benefits for consulting with staff:

  • It can improve motivation, quality of care and you are more likely to retain staff.
  • It provides a safer environment for staff to work in as they have been part of the process.
  • A well-managed service in which staff work together, service users are settled and there is a culture of high quality care will likely improve your CQC rating and ensure you have a viable business which staff can be proud to be associated with.

Show Me the Legislation?

Health and Safety legislation is built on the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (namely section 2 and 3 of the act) known as the umbrella act – an employer’s duty to provide a safe work environment for all (staff, residents and visitors).

There are 2 pieces of key legislation around consulting staff and they are:

Generally, where an employer recognises a trade union which supports workers views, then the 1977 regulations apply and thus, where the employer does not, the 1996 regulations apply. It is, however, possible where both union and non-union members make up the workforce to apply both pieces of legalisation.  This article does not seek to cover the topic and merits for and against trade unions.

What the law requires is that safety representatives are appointed within an organisation who are trained and supported in their role to represent workers on safety matters and that paid time is allocated to discharge those duties.  This is not a full-time role, rather an additional responsibility. Representatives are appointed either by a trade union through its members or by the workforce. The law does not state how frequently meetings should take place or how long they should be, though generally twice a year, and input into staff team meetings at least monthly would be a reasonable guide.

Examples of Good Practice?

The CQC have published a paper entitled “CELEBRATING GOOD CARE, CHAMPIONING OUTSTANDING CARE” in which it highlights good practice and the effect that this has on staff and the vulnerable residents they care for.

 

References:

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 2 and 3

Health and safety in care homes HSG220

CELEBRATING GOOD CARE, CHAMPIONING OUTSTANDING CARE by CQC

Consulting employees on health and safety  INDG 232

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Dave Bennion

Health and Safety Specialist

Dave is a multi-sited safety practitioner with extensive experienced in health and safety, fire safety, environmental management, quality and lean management consulting in a variety of industry setting. Dave is also the Director of DGB Health and Safety Ltd based in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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