Unexpectedly high SATS results caused three primary school teachers to be sacked from Our Lady Catholic primary school in Hitchin, Herts. The teachers denied they inflated the assessments for the children and said they were scapegoats for failings at the Catholic senior school in Stevenage, John Henry Newman.
Two of the teachers, Rosa Phillips and Liz Tye, claimed unfair dismissal from the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust, which runs schools in both Herts and London. Another teacher, Sarah Miles, also from Our Lady, claimed constructive dismissal at the hearing in Cambridge. She was sacked from the school in March 2018 but was reinstated on appeal.
At an employment tribunal in Cambridge, the three teachers heard that the headmaster at John Henry Newman raised concerns about the SATS results coming from Our Lady when compared with its seven other feeder schools. However, Rosa Phillips, who had been head of Key Stage Two and a temporary deputy head and who was suspended in January 2018 along with other members of staff and sacked in the March, said that the Standards and Testing Agency carried out an investigation in SATS results at the school and they found nothing wrong.
Mrs Phillips put the SATS test results down to the hard work of staff and the support the children received from the staff. At the tribunal in Cambridge, Employment Judge Alan Johnson said their cases were “well-founded” and succeeded, a remedy hearing is to be fixed at a later date.
Understanding more about unfair dismissal claims
When looking at this case, whilst the school and the academy trust are allowed to sack their staff, they must have fair reasoning for doing so. In this instance, the teachers do not believe the reasoning to be fair and this is why they made an unfair dismissal claim and took their case to the employment tribunal.
Simply put, once an employee has undertaken at least one year of continuous employment with their employer then they are eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim if they are able to prove this is the case. It is important for employers to note that any employee who has not been dismissed properly may have the right to claim compensation on grounds of unfair or discriminatory dismissal.
Of course, from the name ‘unfair dismissal’ it is clear to see that fairness is an essential component in dismissing an employee correctly and in order for a dismissal to be fair, employers must adhere to several rules. Every dismissal must have a fair reason, such as employee wrongdoing, and proper dismissal procedures must be followed to ensure that the dismissal is fair in all circumstances.
Many employers may be surprised to hear that even if they think they have done everything right, they can still be taken to an employment tribunal if the employee believes the dismissal to be unfair, like the case above.
Difference between unfair dismissal claims and constructive dismissal claims
Whilst two of the teachers in the case above claimed unfair dismissal, another teacher claimed constructive dismissal and these are two different things. Whilst an unfair dismissal claim is fairly self-explanatory and the majority of people will have heard of them, constructive dismissal claims are not as commonly heard of.
The easiest way to explain constructive dismissal is a situation where an employee leaves their job because of their employer’s behaviour. So, instead of an employer ending your contract, you are essentially forced to leave your job against your will because of your employer’s conduct. In order to make a constructive dismissal claim, your employer’s offending conduct needs to be serious and a fundamental breach of your contract of employment.
Usually, an employer’s breach of contract is either one very serious incident, such as deducting pay without explanation or notice, forcing unreasonable changes to work hours or allowing harassment by other employees, or it can be a number of small incidents that together create a breach, this is usually referred to as the ‘last straw’.
There is no denying that constructive dismissal claims can be very complex. However, if you have a case for constructive dismissal, you should leave your job immediately as an employer may argue that by staying you accepted the conduct.
How Nationwide Employment Lawyers can help
Whether you are an employee looking to make a constructive or unfair dismissal claim against an employer or you are an employer facing a case raised by an employee, our team here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers can help. Our dedicated team has the skills, knowledge and experience required to assist you in this regard. Do not hesitate to contact us today by calling 020 8263 6080 or completing the contact form on our website, we will gladly assist you further.