- 23 April 2021
- 12 min read
How To Manage Unfair Treatment At WorkSubscribe To Advice
What is unfair treatment and how do you deal with it? Nurse and Midwife, Brenda, outlines her experience and how she challenged it. Find out the resources and laws available to nurses and care staff.
Topics Covered In This Article
1000s of jobs for Nurses & Care Professionals. No.1 for UK nursing, care & healthcare jobs.Search Jobs
What Does Unfair Treatment Look Like?
So you are a nursing professional and you love your role of caring for patients?
You take pride in working with courage and compassion for those in your care but you feel that you are facing circumstances at work that are less than fair and that the duty of candour and care you have towards your patients are not being afforded you at work.
What if you receive a letter inviting you to a formal meeting without any prior warning or awareness on your part of what the issues may be, what would you do?
What if you feel that your career progression is being blocked by your manager and that information on you personal file is being used and manipulated to discredit you.
What would you do?
My Own Experience Of Unfair Treatment At Work
Well I had to deal with similar situations to the ones described above and would like to recount how I approached the issues and explore other resources and sources of support that NHS staff can access in these unfortunate circumstances.
For the past 20 plus years I have enjoyed the experience of working in various hospitals and healthcare facilities in England, both NHS and private entities.
What Do You Think?
Ask questions, comment and like this article below! Share your thoughts, add your opinion in the comments below.Comment
Nursing & Care Jobs at Nurses.co.uk
Progress Your Career. Search 1000s of Nursing & Care JobsSearch Jobs
I have mostly positive experiences in these facilities that employed me through the years, including district general hospitals in East Sussex in Hastings and Eastbourne, and many different hospitals in London as a student, as a nurse and as a midwife.
It was when I came to live in Hertfordshire that I had the unfortunate and sad experience of being treated unfairly.
The application process took a long time so I waited 8 months to get started in my new role.
I was shown around and was warmly welcomed by everyone. One year had passed and I felt like I was settling into my job.
Apart from the odd misunderstanding that can happen between colleagues I felt everything was going well.
I enjoyed supporting students (as a mentor) and also my colleagues, from juniors to consultants. I enjoyed being able to help as part of a team.
So I applied to an NHS funded course to train as a supervisor to formalise a job role to support my colleagues, especially as the unit need more supervisors.
And I requested support from my supervisor.
Soon after this I felt that my manager started to be less than fair to me. I felt I needed support to address the issues I was facing.
At the time I was acutely aware that the situation was a source of distraction from the care I gave to my patients.
It also resulted in a loss of trust in my employer, my colleagues and my managers.
There were numerous options open to me, including just resigning my job and walking away.
The following is what I learned about the choices available to us in managing unfair treatment at work.
There Are Options Available For Managing Unfair Treatment
There are laws to protect employees from discrimination at work.
The Equality Act makes it unlawful for you to be discriminated against due to protected characteristics as race, age, gender and so on.
So I will review some of these resources that provide guidance in these circumstances.
Become A Community Contributor
Share your story to help and inspire others. Write or create a video about your job or your opinions!Contribute
Contract Of Employment
One often overlooked resource is the contract of employment.
It also refers to policies that guide managers and staff in their work relationship.
Informal Management Approach
There are policies to guide managers when there is the need to address and manage punctuality and attendance of employees.
Performance management policies also guide managers to ensure fairness in the management of staff.
Another important aspect of employment relations is choosing a union representative.
These days I think it is mandatory to have indemnity insurance as healthcare professionals.
But from experience it seems wise to choose one that is specific to your nursing job role.The union rep that works in your department has insider knowledge so they are more equipped to identify unfair treatment or even a subtle deviation from policies and laws that protect people at work.
In the past I have had union representation by a rep who was not a nurse and it made the process less effective as there were medical / nursing processes that the rep was not knowledgeable about and therefore could not grasp fully the issues at stake.
Another law that we healthcare professionals are made to understand and apply in our jobs everyday is Information Governance.
The training for this is mandatory and is related to the Data Protection Act 2018 (Supplement of the GDPR from May 25 2018).
This Act outlines legal requirements for any individual or company that process people’s information.
This regulation applies not just to the management of patients data but also to the personal information your employer holds about you.
So if as a nurse you feel that your personal file is being misused or is not being processed fairly by a manager or supervisor you may resort to the principles within this Act that guide the management of your personal data to ensure fairness and accuracy.
I felt this needed to be challenged and was happy to see that there were legal principles that provide protection for employees in these circumstances.
Employee Assistance Program And Occupational Health
These kinds of experiences can impact a person’s confidence, work performance and even impact their health and wellbeing.
So NHS staff may find it useful to seek support from Employee Assistance Services at work or the Occupational Health Department, their GP, the hospital chaplain or their own spiritual or faith leader, minister or pastor.
Sometimes a staff member experiencing unfair treatment at work may also be isolated from a social support network and may also be facing other personal challenges such as ill health or family breakdown.
It is in such a case that it may be wise to walk away from a job if you encounter harassment, discrimination or other unfair treatment at work.
A Strong Support Network
If you don’t feel strong enough or supported to challenge a manager or other perpetrator of unfair behaviour directed against you, it may be the safe and wise decision to seek employment elsewhere to remove yourself out of harm’s way and reduce the risk of adverse impact on your health.
The (British Medical Association 2021) BMA reports on evidence that bullying and harassment negatively impacts patients safety.
Speak Up Guardians And Whistleblowers
It was also one of the findings of the Francis Reports (2013) that staff at Mid Staffordshire were not speaking up about poor care and bullying, for fear of repercussions.
The report also highlighted a relationship between poor management, a culture of fear and poor patient outcomes.
So internally we now have Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.
There is also the law that protects Whistleblowers who are concerned about poor management and any other issue that may have a negative impact on patient care and the working life of staff at any level in the work place.
Other Resources External To The NHS
Other resources that employees may find useful when dealing with unfair treatment at work include the CAB (Citizens Advice) and ACAS.
What Is ACAS?
(ref from Wikipedia 2021)
“ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is a Crown non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom. Its purpose is to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practice.”
Along with mediation and conciliation in the work place, ACAS also provide best practice guidance for employers.
If they are not able to give direct advice they are usually great at sign-posting people to appropriate resources.
What I Specifically Learned From My Own Experience Of Unfair Treatment
Drawing from my own experience of unfair treatment at work here is my advice if you were to face a similar experience.
In situations like this one it is always good to get support from an experienced representative. In my case I also had the option of having a friend to support me. However because it was a formal meeting it would not have been a good decision to take a friend with me. My rep was able to speak on my behalf during the meeting and that would not be the case if a friend attended to give moral support.
Keep A Written Log
Another important lesson is the need to keep a written log of the discussions taking place. I made a written request for information (about the proposed meeting) when my verbal request was declined. By writing the request I was creating a record of what was going on. It served to register my dissatisfaction with the managers response and also to formally register my insistence that my request be taken seriously.
Support Should Keep A Written Log Too
In fact, combining the first two learning points above… the person who gives support should also take accurate records or minutes of the discussions for future reference. My union rep did this and it helped support my own written complaint later.
Ask For Policies
Another lesson to learn from the experience is that policies are in place to guide managers and protect both the managers and the employee. They are a good reference source when situations like these occur. If you are new to your trust and not sure how to find any of the policies, your manager should provide you with a copy on request. However most NHS Trusts now have them on the intranet.
Don’t Be Afraid To Call Out Bad Practice
And finally it is important to challenge bad practice or bad behaviour no matter who the perpetrator may be.
Although senior managers may appear scary or above the rules, they are not and should be made to act in a fair way with everyone. This kind of behaviour can knock the employee’s confidence and also adversely affect patient care and must therefore be challenged (albeit respectfully).
Remember And Promote The 6 Cs Of Nursing
It takes all of the 6 Cs of nursing that was launched back in 2012 to challenge poor management in the NHS.
If all levels of staff took these 6 principles on board this topic (unfair treatment at work) would become obsolete.
● Care: We must care
● Commitment: committed to patients and to our profession
● Communication: challenging unfair treatment requires a high level of professionalism and respect must be maintained when communicating in these circumstances
● Compassion: nursing is about compassion for patients but in some circumstances self compassion will go a long way to preserve your self-confidence and wellbeing
● Competence: Competency levels and self-confidence may waver and decline in the face of bullying and other unfair work place experiences
● Courage: it is good to have the courage to say no to unfair treatment at work, especially if you are a nurse working in the NHS.