As you are probably aware three crèches between Dublin and Wicklow have come under intense scrutiny in recent days after it came to light that young children under their care were allegedly subjected to inappropriate and unacceptable treatment by staff at the childcare and early learning facilities in Stepaside, Malahide and Rathnew.

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An RTÉ researcher, posing as a childcare worker, uncovered the substandard care while working at the facilities. The undercover researcher’s disturbing findings included video footage illustrating manhandling of infants and young children. The report, “A Breach of Trust”, was aired on Prime Time Investigates yesterday (Tuesday 28th May 2013). The claims are currently being investigated by An Garda Síochána and the Childcare and Family Services unit of the HSE.

While the Prime Time Investigates programme focused heavily on three specific facilities it also highlighted failures in the entire childcare industry in Ireland. The researchers acquired a HSE inspection report that showed that a staggering 75% of Irish childcare facilities were in breach of regulations in 2012.

Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, said that the HSE inspection reports into childcare facilities will be published online in the next few weeks.

Understandably, these statistics have caused uproar and have opened up a huge debate on childcare standards in Ireland. Many parents have been very upset by the recent revelations of breaches in child protection regulations. The poor practices exposed in certain crèches are likely to negatively affect the opinion held by many with regard to childcare facilities in Ireland.

These revelations will bring about intense scrutiny from parents of children in crèches all around the country. In order to protect their reputation it is absolutely vital that management take the time to ensure that all employees in crèches and childcare facilities in general are fully qualified for the roles in which they have been hired.

It is imperative that all employees working with children are vetted thoroughly and that all relevant paperwork is in place.

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The HSE report from 2012 highlighted serious policy breaches and failures on numerous grounds like the child-carer ratio. It is imperative that employers seek advice from Employment Legislation experts if they need clarification on policies and procedures that they are required to have in place or if they need help in determining whether or not they have the appropriate paperwork on file. It is essential that all facilities are adequately staffed and that management take the necessary precautions to ensure a high standard of protection and care for children at all times.

One suggestion perhaps might be to install a CCTV system to monitor the interaction between employees and children – before doing so, however, a CCTV policy is required – again, it is essential to seek advice from the appropriate body if you are considering such a course of action.

Reports suggest that multiple employees have been suspended and that at least one employee has been dismissed by the crèches named in the report pending the conclusion of the Garda, HSE and internal inquiries.

Employers need to remember that, to avoid any risk of exposure, it is absolutely imperative to follow approved disciplinary procedures prior to disciplining employees. Regardless of the severity of the situation there are steps that need to be followed in order to ensure employers remain compliant with all Irish Employment Legislation. It is vital to follow procedures that are in line with the Labour Court recommendations to insulate your company against the risk of a future claim or fine. To avoid jeopardising the process contact an Employment Law expert prior to initiating any disciplinary action and arm yourself with the appropriate guidance.