Schools may wish to review their disciplinary rules and procedures in order to oblige staff to raise any safeguarding concerns. This follows a recent Court of Appeal case involving a primary school headteacher who was dismissed for failing to reveal to the Governing Body that a close friend of hers had been convicted of downloading indecent images of children onto his computer, an offence covered by the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2009.
The Headteacher (who is not named) owned a house with the convicted criminal and went on holiday with him but the couple did not live together. The Governing Body ultimately dismissed the Headteacher for failing to inform it about the conviction (which would have enabled the Governing Body to conduct a risk assessment and to put any necessary safeguarding measures in place), and because she subsequently refused to admit her error of judgement in failing to inform them.
Whilst the Employment Tribunal decided that the dismissal was technically unfair because a governor did not conduct the appeal hearing properly, no compensation was awarded to the Headteacher because she was found to be completely to blame for her dismissal.
The Headteacher appealed against the Tribunal decision but both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal endorsed the Tribunal’s decision to refuse to award any unfair dismissal compensation to the Headteacher. One factor in the decision was that the school’s disciplinary rules stated that neglect of duty was a disciplinary offence and this included a failure to report any matter which the employee was under a duty to report.
The decision in this case emphasises the far reaching impact of the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations: here the school and the Head were not actually caught by the Regulations as they were not “early years” or “later years” childcare providers. However, it also emphasises two other matters – (1) the need for schools to check their disciplinary rules to ensure that they oblige staff to reveal information to headteachers and governing bodies and (2) the need to provide proper training to those handling disciplinary investigations and hearings to avoid into the unfair dismissal trap.
If you would like us to review your procedures and/or provide staff and governors with training, please contact Harmony HR Solutions Ltd.
Brexit could provide some relief for multi-academy trusts
Following Brexit, various lawyers have considered the implications of the referendum decision on UK employment law. Whilst all are unanimous in the belief that Brexit does not herald the removal of EU generated workplace law such as rights to holiday pay, rest breaks and to equal treatment, there is a theory that the harsh restrictions preventing employers from harmonising terms following a TUPE transfer will be relaxed in time. This is not likely to happen for at least two years but there is now a light at the end of the tunnel for large multi-academy trusts who have inherited schools from various local authorities.
If you would like further advice on the implications of Brexit for your organisation, please contact Harmony HR Solutions Ltd.