Exemplar Healthcare Services

Providing fixed-fee HR and employment law advice
“the reason it works is that Watershed gives us the advice we need at the point when we ask for it, it’s not led by anything else”

Exemplar Health Care Services, whose head office is in Rotherham, employs 2,500 people at its 30 homes.  The majority of homes are for young adults with complex, specialist needs and it is vital for the business to ensure that the relationship between staff and residents is kept on a sound, professional footing and employees are working to the required standards.  If it does not, the welfare of the residents is potentially put at risk.

Exemplar had a case in which a fourth disciplinary charge was proven against an employee who had already three live final warnings for previous breaches.  The company was shocked when its previous employment law advisers recommended that the employee should receive another final, written warning.  The company had to follow that advice because otherwise Exemplar’s insurance would not have covered the cost of any subsequent employment tribunal.  This was the final straw.  The company was becoming increasingly frustrated with the advice given by the insurance company.  Having someone on four live final written warnings didn’t make any sense and it was getting to the point where Exemplar felt it couldn’t dismiss anybody.

Watershed was recommended to Exemplar, however, it did not want to abandon the existing insurance policy, which covers other risks as well as employment law.  So it approached the insurer, Abbey Legal Protection, and explained that Exemplar wanted to obtain its employment law advice from Watershed, but remain covered by the policy. After discussions, an agreement was reached. The insurers remain liable for the cost of any tribunals, provided the company follows the advice of Watershed in each case.

Although the combination of an insurance policy and Watershed’s fixed-fee service was slightly more expensive than the previous arrangement, it has proved to be much better for the business.  Claire Stead, Head of HR and Training explains:

‘It’s an additional cost – our premium wasn’t reduced. But the reason it works is that Watershed gives us the advice we need at the point when we ask for it, it’s not led by anything else. We have been able to manage staff appropriately and proportionately, as we should. When somebody has to be dismissed, we need to be able to do that. Our home managers have to be able to make decisions based on what is right for the business. Now that we use Watershed, they don’t even have to think about the insurance. In the business we are in, safeguarding issues have to be dealt with seriously. You can’t just give someone a slap on the wrist and tell them not to do it again.’

As well as disciplinary matters, our team supports Exemplar’s managers with telephone and e-mail advice on contracts of employment, managing performance, attendance, fairness at work, equal opportunities and fair and practical policies. We keep operational managers up to date on the law and also help to ensure that employment practices and decisions help the business to achieve its goals. Our advice is pragmatic, commercial and down-to-earth.