Meetings With St John FAQs
If the matter is urgent, contact a delegate from the AEAWA website www.aeawa.com.au. If the matter is non-urgent, or you have a general enquiry, suggestion or feedback, please email [email protected]. We try to respond to all emails within 24 hours.
I have been approached by management in relation to an incident, allegation or 'discussion', how should I handle this?
Complaints, perceived wrongdoing, and performance concerns are handled through the Code of Conduct Policy, which covers both the Performance Management process, and the (generally more serious) Misconduct Management process. If you are approached in relation to matters which could possibly result in disciplinary action, please speak with a delegate before making any formal statement or responding to any allegations.
Remember that anything you say (even in what appears to be an informal chat) can be used in further proceedings. It’s best to try and ascertain the nature of the complaint before addressing any points raised. At any stage you can advise management that you wish to respond in writing. This will give you time to reflect and consider your response carefully. It is however advisable to email your response to the AEAWA before you send it through to SJA, as feedback can be provided by a committee member before it is finalised. At any stage you can request a support person.
AEAWA delegates are highly experienced in performance management and misconduct management cases and will help guide you through the process. The golden rules of going into a performance meeting:
- Never assume it is just a ‘friendly chat’
- Know your rights (which we will explore further in the article)
- Hope for the best and plan for the worst
- Don’t be afraid to exercise your rights
You should contact the AEAWA as soon as you suspect there might be a problem with your employment or disciplinary action may be taken against you. The AEAWA will not take any action without your authorisation. If you are called to attend a meeting, you can request to be provided with an agenda to assist with your preparation.
If you are provided with detailed information/allegations prior to the meeting, your delegate can assist you to prepare for the meeting. Make sure you seek the AEAWA’s industrial advice before submitting any written materials. As an AEAWA member we encourage you to take a delegate with you to the meeting.
You should be informed:
- what the meeting is about?
- who will be at the meeting?
- where and when the meeting will be held?
- whether there are any documents relevant to the matters to be discussed at the meeting. If so, you should request a copy of those documents.
You can request that this information is provided to you in writing. If the meeting is part of an investigation (especially if you are the subject of the investigation), you can also request:
- the terms of reference for the investigation, including information about the investigator’s role
- a copy of the policies and guidelines to be followed in conducting the investigation
- a copy of the policies and guidelines alleged to have been breached.
I have been asked to attend a meeting with very little warning (immediately or within the next hour or so, or you have been advised to attend Belmont whilst you are on shift).
You should immediately request to be accompanied at the meeting by an AEAWA delegate as your support person. You should ask what the meeting is about and who will be attending.
Once at the meeting ‘just listen’, do not answer any questions, explaining that you were given inadequate notice and insufficient time for preparation. You should take a copy of any letter handed to you but not comment about it.
I was told a matter is confidential and I am not to discuss it with anyone, can i still talk to the AEAWA?
You can and should seek advice from the AEAWA even if advised that the matter is confidential. You should however refrain from speaking with anyone else other than a delegate from your industrial body.
Generally, yes. Management can ask you to attend a meeting to discuss matters related to your employment. If you do not agree, management can direct you to attend a meeting. Such a direction is likely to be lawful and reasonable. If you do not comply, you could be subject to further disciplinary action.
You are not obliged to attend a meeting at the time requested by your employer if it is not possible for you to attend at that time (for example, you are sick, your AEAWA delegate or support person is unavailable, or you will not have enough time to review relevant documents). In this case, consult with your delegate to request a reasonable adjournment of the meeting time. In some cases, it might be better to respond in writing to matters rather than attend a meeting to verbally respond to those matters.
This is something your AEAWA delegate can speak with you about.
Yes. You will be allowed to bring a support person with you to any meetings with management. The vast majority of our members bring their AEAWA delegate as such a person. In addition, it is illegal for an employer to take adverse action against an AEAWA member who seeks ‘to be represented by an industrial association’ under the Fair Work Act 2009.
Adverse action can include dismissal, discrimination, demotion, suspension, issuing warnings, and commencing disciplinary processes. Adequate notice of the meeting should be provided so members can arrange for a delegate to be present to assist them and represent their interests in accordance with the law. Furthermore, the meeting should be scheduled at a time when the representative is able to attend. Non-members do not have the right to representation, only to be offered a ‘support person’.
Delegates will not be available as a ‘support person’ to assist non-members.
The AEAWA understands that members often want the advice and representation of a lawyer during an investigation, but only on rare occasions is a lawyer of value to your case. While the AEAWA have access to an expert legal team, the provisions of the Fair Work Act allow for a ‘support person’ to be present at meetings.
Many lawyers will in fact decline to act as a support person. In addition, lawyers typically represent multiple clients and therefore they are unfamiliar with the specific policies, procedures, and standing orders operated by St John.
The are also unfamiliar with conventions and routines of our work, and ‘standard practice’ of our employment. It is also historically the case that where employees have attempted to bring a lawyer to a meeting, to act as a support person, the meeting is terminated or ‘cut short’ and rescheduled. Fortunately your AEAWA delegate will be very familiar with the relevant employment law, the Fair Work Act, the current EBA, the St John Code of Conduct, the Standard Operating Procedures and other policies relevant to your case, as well as the local protocol and historical conventions of WA ambulance work.
In addition, your delegates have well over a century of combined experience representing countless St John paramedics, Ambulance Officers, Transport Officers, and SOC staff. We know the best arguments to make a strong case to protect our members.
The value of this knowledge cannot be underestimated. Lawyers tend to be of most value in cases where termination of employment has occurred, and where an unfair dismissal appeal will be lodged with the Fair Work Commission, or in cases involving very complex legal issues.
AEAWA can engage a lawyer where required to help advise on such cases, but there is generally a ceiling on the expenses covered. Speak to an AEAWA delegate for more details.
The role of a support person or delegate is prescribed in law according to the Fair Work Act 2009. They:
- DO provide emotional support and reassurance for employee
- DO observe the proceedings, assist with clarifying the process and take notes
- DO quietly prompt or give advice to the employee, including requesting a break if needed
- DO respect and maintain confidentiality at all times Your AEAWA delegate, as a representative of an industrial body to which you are a member, has a role to support their member’s interests, including actively ensuring that natural justice and procedural fairness has been afforded to their member.
This may involve asking clarifying questions and, on occasion, advocating to ensure that procedural fairness has been afforded to their member.
It is generally unlawful for an employer to force an employee to answer questions. An employee may choose which, if any, questions to answer. In any meeting where dismissal is a possible outcome, employees should consider their responses carefully, take the opportunity for an adjournment to take advice from their AEAWA delegate if required, and answer truthfully if the member decides to answer the question. Employees should also appreciate that a refusal or failure to answer a fair and relevant question may result in the employer making its decision without the benefit of any answer.
The FWC investigation in the Patrick Stevedores case (Francis v Patrick Stevedores Holdings Pty Ltd  FWC 7775) resulted in Deputy President Sams stating that employees have a duty to be “open, frank and honest” with their employer about serious issues in the workplace. Therefore, uncooperative employees may be opening themselves up to further disciplinary action – and there have been cases in the past where a dismissal has been upheld where employees were uncooperative and dishonest in investigations (Telstra v Streeter  AIRCFB 15).
In any unfair dismissal matter, the Fair Work Commission is required to consider ‘whether the person was given an opportunity to respond to any reason related to the capacity or conduct of the person’.
The employer is then entitled to make a decision based upon all relevant information before it. Your AEAWA delegate will be able to advise you on how to answer questions. If you do not wish to answer a question for a particular reason (for example, you have not reviewed the relevant documents), you should explain why you cannot answer the question and explain when you will be in a position to answer the question (for example, after reviewing the relevant information). You do have the right to refuse to answer the same question which is needlessly repeated. Employers are not entitled to treat disciplinary meetings as cross examination.
If the investigator has already asked a question and you have fully answered the question to your best ability, then that is sufficient. It is not acceptable for the employer to approach the meeting as an interrogation. If the matter may potentially have criminal or other serious consequences for you (for example, AHPRA registration issues), you should consult with your AEAWA delegate before answering. You may be able to claim privilege against self-incrimination. You can also adjourn a meeting and leave at any time should the situation become too stressful. An employee cannot be detained in an enclosed space unless they are under arrest. Your AEAWA delegate will help support and guide you if this becomes necessary.
Write out your version of events and refer to it during the meeting if you need to. Consider whether you should provide a written response to your employer in addition to a verbal response during the meeting. Your written response will often clarify matters and shorten the time taken in the meeting. Ask your AEAWA delegate to review your version of events to ensure your interests are protected. Consider what other processes may be happening in relation to the same issues (for example, criminal proceedings or an AHPRA board investigation).
You should ensure your responses in all areas are consistent and considered. Review the Code of Conduct, the EBA and any relevant policies to understand the process you are involved in and what to expect. Your employer cannot generally require you to answer questions during a meeting. Your employer is required to give you an opportunity to respond to a matter before it makes a decision about your employment. You will generally have 7 days to respond. If you choose not to respond, your employer may make a decision having regard only to the information available.
Yes. Your employer may have more than one person present at the meeting. It is common for one or more representatives from Employee Relations to attend a meeting with a uniformed manager.
- You can choose to respond in writing to questions should you prefer, discuss with your AEAWA delegate what is best for your situation.
- If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know. Don’t guess the answer.
- Keep your answers short and concise (for example, say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and go no further).
- Do not volunteer information.
- Be accurate.
- Do not exaggerate.
- If you are unsure how best to answer, request a short break to consult with your AEAWA delegate.
- State the basis for your comments if relevant (for example, ‘I observed …’ or ‘I heard …’ or ‘Paramedic X told me that …’ or ‘I measured the heart rate by x and recorded it to be y’). • Do not agree with something unless you know it to be true from your own direct observations.
- Do not speculate (for example, ‘He may have done that because …’). If asked to speculate, it is OK to say you don’t know.
- If you think there is a record relevant to what you are being asked, request a copy of it (for example, time sheets, clinical records, ambiCAD data). You should not answer the question without first reviewing any records.
- If you need to review a patient’s record to refresh your memory about why you made a clinical decision, then request the time and opportunity to do so – somewhere quiet without interruption or pressure.
- Try not to get angry or emotional during the meeting. Request a break if you feel yourself getting angry or emotional.
- Make appropriate considered concessions.
- You can take notes during the meeting if you wish.
- You can ask questions about the process (for example, what will be the next step? When will a decision be made? What are the possible outcomes of the process?).
- Speak with your AEAWA delegate who will advise of the likely next steps.
- As soon as possible after the meeting, make a note of the matters discussed during the meeting.
- Follow up on any matters you promised to address during the meeting (for example, you may have promised a further response once you had reviewed relevant records).
- You can ask for a copy of the notes taken by the interviewer during the meeting to enable you to review them and amend where you don’t agree they are an accurate reflection of events. In general, the interviewer is not required to provide you with a copy of their notes, but they may choose to provide them.
- You can ask what information, if any, will be placed on your personnel file.
- You may provide a written response to issues discussed during the meeting and ask for it to be placed on your personnel file. Your AEAWA delegate will assist in drafting a response.
- You may wish to send an email to the interviewer confirming the matters discussed during the meeting, particularly if the interviewer made verbal concessions during the meeting.