My practice manager has missed a LES payment. What should I do?
Our practice manager has failed to ensure we received the full LES payments for the last quarter, which has left us seriously out of pocket. Is it too late to claim the money? How can we find out how the mistake arose, and should the manager be penalised if the error does result in financial loss for the practice?
Dr John Grenville: Ask your CCG for late payment
The question of whether money can be recovered from an employee or partner who has made an error or acted incompetently depends on what is written in the employee’s contract and the practice’s disciplinary procedure, but I wouldn’t advise that you fine your practice manager.
In the vast majority of cases, recovery of the money via fines is unlikely, and you must take legal advice first if you are considering this course.
If, at any stage, you feel the need to go down the disciplinary route with any member of staff, be certain to follow your disciplinary procedure to the letter and, preferably, seek advice from the BMA or an employment lawyer beforehand.
To reclaim the money from the local area team, go back to the most recent contract that you have signed at the time of the error and check what it says about claiming deadlines. Many contracts say money should be asked for within six months or by the end of the quarter after the one in which the services were delivered, but some are less strict. If you have missed the deadline, you may still be able to ask your CCG to make an ex gratia payment. Your LMC should be able to support you in doing this but obviously it can’t guarantee success.
Dr John Grenville is the secretary of Derby and Derbyshire LMC
Phil Harnby: Cross-check your payments from now on
It seems harsh to penalise your practice manager in this situation – anyone can make a mistake. The practice will get its money in the end and imposing punitive measures is likely to damage staff morale.
However, if this is perhaps the latest in a series of problems with your manager, you should be examining your practice disciplinary procedures to see what options you can consider. But going beyond these procedures by trying to implement penalties or sanctions could land the practice in a difficult legal position – so seek professional advice from either your HR advisers or a suitably qualified solicitor before taking this route.
A mistake like this should encourage the practice to review the reasons the submission deadline was missed and to look for ways to give deadlines greater prominence in your management processes, perhaps by assigning responsibility to additional members of staff for cross-checking that claims have been sent off on time, or by discussing deadlines in partners’ meetings.
Making late submissions for payment claims is not uncommon. Complete the late-payment process for the unpaid LES income, and explain to the processing team what has happened and why you’re late in claiming, as it may be possible to fast-track your payment. Then assess how the delay in cash flow will affect the practice. If it is necessary to inform your bank or accountant, do so as early as you can.
Phil Harnby is the healthcare group manager at RMT Accountants and Business Advisers Limited
Deborah Wood: The practice must bear the loss
If the practice manager did not know that she should have claimed for LES payments the practice was entitled to, then you must find out whether there was a failure to set out clear expectations and job specifications, or whether it is a more fundamental performance capability issue.
The latter could mean that the practice will need to start its performance capability procedures, but it is advisable to consult an employment law specialist before embarking on this process.
However, I would argue that the practice, not the manager alone, must bear any financial loss unless there is an option to make a claim through a relevant insurance policy. Docking wages or fining the practice manager should not be an option.
If you have identified the error early, then it should be possible to make a late application for the monies due, providing the correct paperwork is submitted to support the claims for payment. The important thing is to be able to prove the work necessary to be eligible for the payment has been done and to be able to show that a mistake had been made in the claims process.
The practice manager now needs to set up a simple spreadsheet listing each of the available LESs, the dates when action needs to be taken and the amounts to be claimed, and then cross-check to payments received. In this way, it will be possible to see quickly whether any payments are outstanding at the end of each quarter.
Deborah Wood is healthcare services partner at Moore and Smalley LLP