Childcare Counsel - job offer doubts; whistleblowing

Our resident employment lawyer Caroline Robins, Eversheds principal associate, answers your questions

Q I recently interviewed for a new nursery manager. I offered her the job there and then, but before entering into any contract, I followed up on a few of her references, and a few doubts have crept into my mind. Can I now withdraw the offer?

A If you have made the job offer subject to receipt of satisfactory references and you believe that you have not received these, you are able to withdraw the job offer. The only risk would be if the reason for withdrawing the offer is discriminatory, including where the information received from the referees has any discriminatory motive. If the doubts have arisen due to comments from the referees, you may wish to ask them for more details.

Q One of our senior managers has been accused of asking a staff member to lie in order to cover for them (it is alleged that the manager was out Christmas shopping when she should have been at a meeting). We’re unsure of the next steps to take.

A This situation potentially has both whistleblowing and disciplinary implications. The nursery staff member has raised a concern regarding malpractice, which if it amounts to a qualifying disclosure will afford that staff member protection against any repercussions as a result of raising it. An investigation into the manager’s alleged malpractice should be conducted to determine if there is a case to answer, and if a disciplinary hearing is needed.

The manager would need to be made aware of the full allegations in advance of any such hearing, together with any evidence to be considered at it. The manager will also have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative. The chair of the disciplinary hearing should be independent, as far as is possible, and it is recommended that a note-taker is also present. After all evidence has been considered, together with any representations made or mitigation advanced by the manager, the chair can then make their decision. This should be confirmed in writing, and the manager given the right to appeal.

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