Professional Comment

Understanding Employment Law in Residential Nursing Care

By Wendy Curlett, a fully CIPD-qualified Human Resource Professional specialising in Complex Employment Law case handling at

The residential nursing care sector plays a crucial role in our society, providing essential support to those in need. With the well-being of patients at its core, this sector is highly regulated, making employment law a very important element of the industry.

To help you navigate the tricky landscape of employment law in the residential nursing care sector, we’re exploring how your organisation can settle disputes and maintain a harmonious and productive workforce.
Why is the Residential Nursing Sector Closely Regulated?

This sector is carefully regulated to ensure the safety, well-being, and quality of care for residents, many of whom are vulnerable individuals with significant healthcare needs. Regulation is necessary for many things, such as protecting residents from harm, maintaining quality of care, safeguarding their rights, preventing fraud and abuse, ensuring infection control, setting staffing standards, promoting transparency, and building public trust in the industry. These regulations help maintain a consistent and high standard of care across the sector and hold facilities accountable for their actions.

Navigating Residential Nursing Employment Law
In this sector, employment law isn’t just about compliance; it’s about maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for both employees and patients. Here’s how you can achieve this when navigating employment law:
Dealing with Poor Performance
In healthcare, addressing poor performance is absolutely crucial, as employees are often working closely with vulnerable individuals. Patient safety and the quality of care depend on the competence and dedication of the staff, so when an employee is performing poorly, it is essential to navigate this issue legally and fairly. The key is to establish clear disciplinary procedures and maintain thorough documentation of all actions taken!
Staff Support
Supporting staff members is not just an ethical duty but also a legal one. The well-being of employees is crucial in an industry where stress and burnout are very common. Employee assistance programs can offer guidance and support, and providing a nurturing work environment can help prevent disputes and improve overall care quality.
Restrictive Covenants
Employment contracts often include restrictive covenants to protect the interests of both parties. In the residential nursing care sector, these covenants must be carefully crafted to balance employee rights and employer interests. Understanding their enforceability and limitations is vital to maintaining a stable workforce.
Protection from Poaching
Staff poaching is a challenge in the nursing care sector, as experienced professionals are highly sought after. Legal measures such as non-solicitation and non-compete clauses can be employed to protect against staff poaching and maintain a cohesive workforce.
Duties Under the Health and Safety at Work Act
The Health and Safety at Work Act places significant responsibilities on employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their staff and patients. Compliance with this act is not only a moral obligation but also a legal one. Understanding the employer and employee duties is crucial in avoiding disputes and ensuring a safe work environment.

Here are some of the key duties under the HSWA for the residential care sector:

Employer Duties:
• Provide and maintain a safe and healthy environment for residents and employees
• Develop and implement health and safety policies and procedures
• Identify and assess risks to health and safety and take measures to control or eliminate them
• Provide training and information to employees to ensure they can work safely
• Monitor health and safety performance and continuously improve safety practices
• Provide appropriate equipment and resources for safety

Employee Duties:
• Follow health and safety policies and procedures
• Use equipment and resources in a safe manner
• Report any hazards, near misses, or incidents to their employer
• Co-operate with their employer to ensure a safe work environment
• Take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others

Risk Assessment and Control:
• Conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards and assess the risks to residents and employees
• Implement control measures to minimise or eliminate identified risks, such as providing proper equipment and training, using safe work practices, and ensuring the security of residents

Emergency Preparedness:
• Develop and maintain emergency response plans and procedures for incidents like fires, medical emergencies, or natural disasters
• Ensure all employees are trained and familiar with emergency procedures
• Maintain records of health and safety incidents, risk assessments, training, and safety inspections