A social worker who pulled a sickie from work so that she could start a new job has been suspended on the grounds of misconduct and dishonesty.
The youth justice social worker sent a text message to her line manager stating that she was ill and could not attend work on Monday 15 December 2014. The same day she attended an induction to take up a new agency post at another local authority.
The social worker’s team manager found out she was at the induction after a chance phone call with the boss at her new service.
The social worker’s employer complained to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Her team manager said she had “abandoned” her post and failed to complete the required three month notice period after she resigned from her job on 31 October.
Some service users were unaware about the social worker’s impending departure and her record keeping was incomplete when she left, creating the possibility that information could have been lost and service users put at risk, the manager added.
The fitness to practise panel heard the social worker’s employer believed she would finish work in late January after completing her notice period. However, the social worker had told the new local authority she could start on 15 December.
The Friday evening before phoning in sick she had cleared her desk and left without saying a word to her colleagues.
Defending her actions, the social worker said she was “truly poorly” and was ill when she turned up to the induction at the new service. She also claimed she believed the 15 December was her final day at work.
The panel dismissed both assertions and concluded the social worker knew she was not free to take up the new job as she had not worked her contractual notice period. It found she had lied to her line manager, as the reason for her non-attendance at work was not illness but instead because she had obtained alternative employment.
The panel found the social worker’s actions breached standards of conduct and standards of proficiency for social workers, including the requirement to operate within the legal and ethical boundaries of the profession.
It concluded the social worker’s actions amounted to misconduct and her fitness to practise was impaired. The panel found a suspension of twelve months was an appropriate sanction to provide protection to the public, retain confidence in the social work profession and to allow the social worker an opportunity to remedy her shortcomings.