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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 48162
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Hello, Im a student at University studying for a Health-related

Resolved Question:

Hello,

I'm a student at University studying for a Health-related qualification and have run into difficulties. The qualification involves 50% academic time, 50% practice placement. In my practice placement, I have been subject to behaviour I believe amounts to bullying by my mentor and the wider team of staff there. Having approached my academic tutors with this, I have received little or no support, with the sentiment being - "you're just a student now, so get on with it". It is a one year degree, up until which I was employed by the NHS. The degree is jointly run by the NHS and the University (I am a student but also paid a salary by the NHS Trust). My questions are - where do I stand as an employee, and where do I stand as a student.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Do you have a contract of employment with the NHS?

Customer:

Thank you for your reply. Yes, but I haven't actually received a hard copy of it yet.

Ben Jones :

Thanks and do you ave continuous service with this employer - for example you mention you were previously employed by the NHS, has this service continued in the placement without a break and if so how far back does it go?

We may miss each other on this over the weekend as I am not online full time so thanks for your patience, but I am dealing with this

Customer:

Complicated as usual with the NHS. My main employment was via a different Trust up until September this year when I transferred to the current Trust and position in question. However, I have been registered as a 'bank' nurse for several years with this current Trust.

Ben Jones :

ok as a bank nurse you would not be deemed an employee as such, rather an agency worker so this time is unlikely to count towards your continuous employment with them. So ignoring any bank work and any taking into account any gaps between employment, when would you say your continuous employment goes back to?

Customer:

For this trust - September 9th

Ben Jones :

you can include other trusts as well as long as the gap between them was less than a week and of course excluding bank work

Customer:

I finished my previous position on 18th of August, having checked with HR that the subsequent gap between this time and starting in September would not constitute a 'break in service' for tax, payroll, etc.

Customer:

Before this I was employed continuously since 2000

Ben Jones :

Ok well your rights will largely depend on your continuous service with the employer. As far as bullying is concerned, unfortunately it is something that happens all too often in the workplace. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) defines bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual subjected to it.


 


Under law, specifically the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. In addition, they have the implied contractual duty to provide a safe and suitable working environment. That includes preventing, or at least effectively dealing with bullying behaviour occurring in the workplace.


 


In terms of what the victim of bullying can do to try and deal with such problems, the following steps are recommended:


 



  1. First of all, and if appropriate, the employee should try and resolve the issue informally with the person responsible for the bullying.

  2. If the above does not work or is not a viable option, the employee should consider raising a formal grievance with the employer by following the company's grievance policy. This formally brings the bullying issue to the attention of the employer and they will have a duty to investigate and deal with it.

  3. If, following a grievance, the employer fails to take any action or the action they take is inappropriate, the employee would need to seriously consider their next steps. Unfortunately, employment law does not allow employees to make a direct claim about bullying. As such, the most common way of claiming for bullying is by resigning first and then submitting a claim for constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal (subject to having at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer). The reason for resigning would be to claim that by failing to act appropriately, the employer has breached the implied terms of mutual trust and confidence and failed to provide a safe working environment and that there was no other option but to resign. However, this step should only be used as a last resort as it can be risky, after all you will be terminating your employment.


 


In general, try and gather as much evidence as possible before considering making a formal complaint and certainly before going down the resignation route. As bullying often takes verbal form, the best way is to keep a detailed diary of all bullying occasions so that there is at least some reference in written form that the employer and/or the tribunal can refer to.


 


The university will have little control over what happens in your placement and they will have limited responsibility for this because this would be something for the employer to try and resolve. They can still be used to negotiate with the employer if necessary but cannot really be forced to do so. As such you are advised to try and resolve this with the employer.

Customer:

Thanks for this very detailed reply. Just one more quick question: what is the legal status of a doctor's note which advises a change of working environment?

Ben Jones :

it is a recommendation which the employer needs to consider and implement as far as practicable, this will of course depend on the individual circumstances, the changes required, the resources available, the impact it will have on the business and others, etc

Customer:

Thank you

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