Spotlight On… Juliette Franklin

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Spotlight On… Juliette Franklin

Juliette Franklin, Legal Director in our Employment team, shines a light on some big changes that will impact the care sector ahead of Acuity Law’s panel discussion at UK Care Week 2024 later this month.

What employment trends are impacting care organisations most?

Changes coming in April expanding the right to work flexibly are likely to have a massive impact on the care sector. People now have more opportunities to work differently and that could be quite challenging for care professionals, who face much more of a need for presenteeism than professionals in some other sectors.

We’re also going to see big changes to holiday pay entitlement coming in April. Employment relationships in the care sector are more likely to be “atypical” than in some other areas – for example, they might involve zero hours contracts or agency employment. This will create challenges for businesses to stay compliant in terms of their holiday pay calculations.

HR processes need to be in place for employers to stay compliant when these changes come into force.

What employment law issues do care sector businesses often all foul of?

A lot of workers in the care sector are migrants, and therefore need the correct checks and documentation in place to prove their right to work in the UK. Care providers must make sure they have their house in order when they are recruiting and employing staff, to minimise any risks.

Another area is whistleblowing. Businesses in the health and social care sectors often experience employees raising concerns about standards, or even malpractice, but many employers don’t manage whistleblowing processes as well as they could.

The issue is twofold: in terms of having adequate mechanisms in place so that whistleblowers know what to do if they have concerns and then, once they have raised a concern, that the organisation has appropriate measures in place to deal with that concern and support the person who has raised it.

It’s important to not react wrongly and make a bad situation worse. If an organisation doesn’t have the proper post-disclosure measures in place to make sure that the whistleblower is appropriately protected and doesn’t suffer any detrimental effects on their career, then employment claims can arise. If organisations don’t manage the situation properly, the implications can be quite catastrophic.

What are the top 4 employment law mistakes that businesses in the care sector often make?

  1. Not having an appropriate policy in place: either thinking you’ve got it covered or actually not having a policy at all. Or, if you have a policy, not implementing it, publishing it, or reviewing it. If you have a policy, you have to do something with it.
  1. Avoiding training. I think organisations sometimes fear that if they start to offer training, they’re going to encourage lots of people to come forward and raise concerns. But if you are training people properly, you are empowering them to raise genuine concerns appropriately. In addition, the person who received that concern has the tools to deal with it and avoid an issue spiralling out of control.
  1. Neglecting communication and staff engagement. This can cause resentment, make people feel isolated, not respected or unsupported. Open communication and staff engagement helps people to be aware of what’s going on, and feel able to speak up and seek feedback. That is a much more positive approach.
  1. Not leading by example. If employees see managers calling out bad practices and supporting people, they are more likely to get engagement from workers. If you don’t get things right from the outset, it will impact on staff recruitment, retention and profitability.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Juliette. Did you always want to be an Employment lawyer?

I originally wanted to be an airline pilot – I was put off because I wasn’t tall enough! I was also discouraged by the vast cost of training to be an airline pilot – it was something like £100k, so coming from a working-class background, I wasn’t really pushed into it! Instead, I chose the law.

You have a particular interest in discrimination matters – how did your expertise in this area arise?

It was twofold, really – from a social background perspective and, as a woman, it was something I was drawn to. When I was doing my A Levels, five or six of us from my state school expressed an interest in studying Law at university and we were called into a meeting and questioned about whether we were absolutely sure, because the law was quite privileged, and many lawyers come from a private school background. That really put my back up.

After my A Levels, I had an interview for some work experience at a law firm in my small town. The partner who interviewed me asked me how I thought I would manage a career in the law as a young female who might want to have children. I turned the work experience down – I didn’t want to go to a firm that would ask me those questions.

In my degree, in my post-grad and in my training contract I really enjoyed Employment law. It really gave a me a lot to think about; a lot of opposing views to reconcile. It’s fascinating to see these play out in areas such as the care sector.

If you’re a care provider, you can hear more about how Acuity Law can help with your legal needs, at stand G32 at UK Care Week. Juliette will also be giving an Acuity Law panel discussion at the event, together with Health and Social Care Regulatory Specialist Jenny Wilde and Immigration expert Sabina Kauser.

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