Quite rightly, a national blacklist exists of care workers who have abused or mistreated a resident or service user.
Workers in this sector are at high risk of being drawn into a serious investigation. Service users make complaints - and by no means are all of them well founded. The families of service users complain. Same as anywhere else, your colleagues can complain about you.
Because of the importance of any care home, the employer cannot ignore any complaint and must investigate all of them. It's rare to find an experienced care worker who hasn't been involved in a disciplinary investigation.
So here's the really scary thing. It's not just your job on the line when there's an investigation. It's your name and reputation. A dismissal from the care sector carries with it the very real possibility that you will never work again doing what you love. In other words, your career can be completely destroyed....permanently.
I dealt with a hearing this week in a care home for adults with learning disabilities. A service user with aggression issues opened an internal door where he shouldn't have been. A very decent care worker held up her hands in front of him to gesture he should not come closer.
To the colleague standing behind, it looked like a push. Because she is also a decent and caring support worker, she felt it her responsibility to report the incident. I believe that both were being sincere.
The support assistant loves her job and has been devastated at the prospect of being banned from caring for others. The investigation has taken months (no good reason for that, but not unusual) and has made her unwell. So has been so upset and horrified by the allegations that she was in no fit state to represent herself at the most important meeting of her life. As with most cases I've done in the care sector, I believe the outcome would have been very different had the union not been involved.
Employers never need to prove something, they only need a "reasonably held belief" of guilt. They look at "the balance of probabilities".
Faced with the calamity of dismissal from the care sector, it is extremely unwise not to be a member of a Trade Union.
Because so many are not, there are decent people on the blacklist who shouldn't be. Decent people whose lives have been needlessly ruined. Residents have been deprived of quality carers.
Worse, some employers are spiteful when it comes to the blacklist, and use it as a threat. Some workers even end up on the list before any hearing has been heard. Because union membership is low in the sector, nobody has any idea how widespread this abuse of the workers is.