Disciplinary procedures for staff

Have you lost trust or confidence in a member of your staff?  If so, think carefully before you dismiss them!

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has confirmed that it is not enough for there just to be a breakdown in trust and confidence making someone’s employment untenable; an exploration of the facts is needed too.

The case concerned a deputy head teacher who was friends with a fellow teacher who had been arrested for possessing indecent images of children.  The deputy head was later suspended for maintaining this friendship and, following a disciplinary procedure, was dismissed.

The school had dismissed the deputy head on the grounds of a lack of trust and confidence.  They categorised it as a “some other substantial reason” dismissal, one of the five potentially fair reasons for dismissal in employment law.

The EAT was in no doubt that the school had lost trust and confidence in the deputy head but went on to say that this was not enough.  What actually happened in the lead up to her dismissal was more important than the loss of trust and confidence in itself.  In this case the school had suspended the deputy head for something that had previously been permitted by them, she had received no warnings that she was no longer allowed to be friends with the fellow teacher, there had been flaws in the procedure leading up to her dismissal, and the school had failed to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

A genuine reason for dismissal could still be deemed unfair simply due to the surrounding circumstances of the disciplinary process and dismissal. Past cases confirm the dangers of even just suspending teaching staff too quickly, for example, as a "knee jerk" reaction to an allegation, that this careful approach needs to be extended further to the lead up to a dismissal itself. 

Governing Body of Tubbenden Primary School v Sylvester UKEAT/0527/11


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