Z v A UKEAT A v Z UKEAT: SOSR dismissal for historical abuse allegations
Head of Employment, Ted Flanagan, discusses the impact of the Z v A UKEAT A v Z UKEAT case.
In this case, the Police informed a school of allegations against their caretaker. This related to historical child abuse, outside and before his employment started, which was being investigated. The school suspended the caretaker from his employment while the Police investigation was undertaken.
After approximately one year, it seemed that the Police were not going to bring charges against the caretaker. Despite being aware of this, the head teacher recommended to the school governors that the caretaker should be dismissed. This was on the grounds that trust and confidence in him had broken down and due to the serious nature of the allegations.
The governors agreed and the school dismissed the caretaker. The governors considered that the matter could damage the confidence that the parents and public had in the school. At an internal appeal, a different panel of governors upheld the decision to dismiss.
The caretaker issued an unfair dismissal claim in which he was successful. The Tribunal found that the school had failed to establish a fair reason for dismissal, and despite the fact that there was a serious allegation, the employer shouldn’t have proceeded immediately to dismissal and instead the matter should’ve been properly investigated.
The EAT agreed and said that while this particular employer had a duty to the children in its care, it also had a duty of care towards its own employees.
What this means for you
While allegations of this nature are distasteful, individuals who haven’t been charged by the police with any offenses have the right not to be unfairly dismissed from their jobs. Dismissals for a SOSR reason must be significant. They must not be based on unsubstantiated grounds, such as historic allegations.
This case is also a reminder that a SOSR reason is not to be used as a convenient label to stick on any situation where the employer feels a conduct reason is not available or appropriate, or due to concerns about reputation.
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