But what happens when something goes wrong?
I am often asked for advice on staff issues and they usually come out of the blue – everything has been fine and then… BANG! Someone has a falling out or a child makes an allegation or there is a misunderstanding with a parent and you are called in to sort things out.
Whoever the staff member is – whether they are a member of your family, a friend or someone you have recruited – you need paperwork in place to protect you and them. A contract is a must – you will find a free contract (and an agreement for self-employed assistants) on the Childcare.co.uk website here.
You must also have, to comply with the document ‘Inspecting Safeguarding in early years, education and skills’, a written Staff Behaviour Policy which is shared with staff – they should read it and sign to confirm they understand the contents. You will find a free sample Staff Behaviour Policy in a previous blog here.
In your Staff Handbook you should talk about your procedures for grievances and disciplinary action – and you are required by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, 2017) to plan regular staff supervisions (requirement 3.21) during which you should ask your staff member: ‘Do you have any safeguarding concerns?’ and listen to their replies.
So, what to do if there is a problem?
Well, thinking about the 3 common issues I raised earlier - because I get asked about those most of all –
- If it’s a problem with staff friendships I suggest you speak to the individually and ask them to come together to mediate the issues.
- If a child makes an allegation against a staff member you need to record what they have said and then get the staff member off the premises immediately and inform Ofsted and the Local Safeguarding Children Board who will take over the investigation. A staff member accused of improper conduct against a child cannot work on the premises until the investigation has been concluded and Ofsted have given them permission to return to work.
- If you are having issues with a staff member and a parent, you should speak to both sides, listen to their replies and you might decide that extra staff training is required or the child would benefit from having a different key person.
It is important to record what has happened and place your notes in the staff member’s file for reference – Ofsted might be involved in the future and ask to read your records so make sure they are written up professionally and reflect the exact situation and action taken as a result.
You might find it useful to ask advice from an independent organisation such as ACAS. It is always important to take advice before making knee-jerk decisions which might put you at risk of being sued for wrongful dismissal as these sorts of actions can cost employers a lot of time and money.
I hope this gives a useful overview ... the most important thing is to deal with staff situations quickly - step up and be the boss - to protect the children and families from any backlash. I offer a consultancy service and if you need further advice about a specific staff situation please message me.