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“I was told we do nothing…” Learning from mistakes exposed by the royal commission

Elder abuse... How will you respond to a complaint of misconduct?

Every bad news story that comes out of a royal commission should be a loud wake-up call for employers and managers.

Whenever you receive a complaint or catch wind of a serious issue, it is crucial to immediately apply your HR processes.

We saw the compounding failures to follow best practices and processes in the banking royal commission, we continue to see them in the aged care royal commission, and we will unfortunately yet undoubtedly see such failures in the current royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.

Several media reports about improper handling of misconduct in aged care facilities prompted me to flag this issue.

In one report, a worker who mistreated six elderly residents was warned and suspended three times, had his “first and final warning” letter downgraded after union pressure, and upon his resignation was ultimately provided with a standard reference letter by the employer that did not mention any of the incidents.

In another report, a senior manager refused to act promptly on several complaints of elder abuse. When the director of nursing voiced her concern about the abuse to the senior manager, she was told “we do nothing,” the Royal Commission heard.

How will you respond to a complaint of misconduct?

When an issue arises, it is important to act immediately by applying your HR processes. Here are just a few suggestions for employers and managers to take immediate action:

  • Suspending with pay to undertake an investigation;

  • Keeping thorough records;

  • Informing the relevant authorities;

  • Addressing the wellbeing and concerns of clients and family members as a high priority;

  • Reviewing the appropriate policies and procedures, being guided by the employer’s business requirements and considering the union’s view;

  • Reviewing workloads and looking at workforce planning, ensuring the correct ratios of staff to residents.

Management and HR need to work collaboratively to consider the risks and impact of the issue on the employees, residents, family members, etc. If your HR manager is closely involved in the issue, it is advisable to appoint an independent workplace investigator.

For more information and support, please contact us today.


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