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Charity house manager wins unfair dismissal claim after breaking company policy by administering medication

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In Mrs Rebecca Tarlow v Jewish Blind and Physically DIsabled Society the respondent is a charity which provides independent living accommodation and support to Jewish adults who have a physical disability, or impaired vision, or both. It is not a care organisation and does not provide primary care to its tenants. In particular, it does not provide medication to its clients.

The claimant was employed by the respondent from 18 December 2017 to 15 March 2022 as a House Manager. Her duties included making a twice daily call round, responding to alarms, and care of tenants who were ill but not nursing.

The claimant was aware of the respondent’s “Professional Boundaries” policy. This is clear that staff are not allowed to administer any medication or fit any medical appliance to service users.

The claimant had attended Dementia Information training which provided information about, and increased awareness of, dementia. But they did not include training on how to respond to the demands which can be made by people with severe dementia.

An elderly tenant had developed severe dementia while a resident. She required and received care four times a day from external carers. The tenant was in bed and in pain as a result of a fall. Her carers gave her paracetamol as she was not able to take paracetamol herself without help.

On Friday 25, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 February 2022 she repeatedly rang the claimant saying that she was in pain. The claimant refused to give her pain relief on numerous occasions, and the tenant would swear at her when she was not given what she wanted. However, on Sunday 27 February 2022 the claimant gave her two paracetamol tablets from the packet in the kitchen, with a glass of water, and a hot water bottle which was also for pain relief.

The claimant told the resident’s carer that she had given the tenant two paracetamol tablets and a hot water bottle. The claimant did not report what had happened to her line manager or to anyone else at the respondent.

On Monday 28 February the tenant’s niece rang Ms Clarke (House Manager) and told Ms Clarke that she had been told by one of her aunt’s carers that the claimant had given her aunt two paracetamol tablets and a hot water bottle.

The claimant was suspended on 2 March 2022. On 11 March, a disciplinary hearing was chaired in which Tarlow accepted she had given the tenant paracetamol contrary to the professional boundaries policy. Tarlow said she “learns from her mistakes”, and “giving in” to the tenant was wrong.

On 15 March, Tarlow was dismissed for gross misconduct for breaking the professional boundaries policy and “put the tenant at risk of an overdose”, and “burns and scalding” from the hot water bottle.

Judge A Jack, acting as an employment judge found she could not have been dismissed fairly for gross negligence as she did not give enough paracetamol to cause overdose and checked the hot water bottle for scalding, but he did find she breached policy.

However, he noted the policy “does not warn that dismissal could result for any breach of it”, as it only suggests it would lead to disciplinary action.

Tarlow was awarded £17,266.74.

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