A school teacher who was on long term sick leave for a year after being assaulted by a pupil in her workplace was eventually dismissed by her employer. Now, the teacher has won the right to compensation after her unfair termination of employment.
Injuries sustained through the assault were not serious however the female who held the position of Head of Information Technology at a sizeable state school suffered a lot of trauma and anguish which left her feeling unsafe in the school along with a view that the employer didn’t handle the aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour of the pupils in a satisfactory manner. The school had previously had a rule in place stating that any pupil who assaults a member of staff would be automatically excluded however the rule was abandoned and the teacher felt that it should be reinstated but was ignored.
After more instances of violence and aggression the teacher went on sick leave and was subsequently diagnosed with clinical depression, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety which resulted in her being off work for more than 12 months and then being dismissed by her employer on the grounds of being incapable to return to work. An internal appeal panel further upheld the decision.
Unde the Equality Act 2010 the teacher fulfilled the criteria for being disabled which the school accepted. At an Employment Tribunal, her claim was upheld that unfavourable treatment took place as a result of her disability and further ruled the dismissal itself was unfair as it was discriminatory in nature.
A doctor’s note was presented to the appeal panel which clarified that the teacher was fit to return to work. The teacher had also undergone some therapeutic treatment and felt better equipped mentally to deal with any incidents that may occur in the future. The Employment Tribunal found that the school should have given more time to obtain confirmation of her medical condition and needs before making the decision to terminate her employment.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned the decision and scheduled another hearing to hear the case again. The Appeal Tribunal made note of the fact that the female had a significant leadership position at the school therefore getting suitable cover in place for the duration of her sick leave was costly and difficult to do, particularly at a time when the school was struggling with finances. The appeal panel had shown sympathy to her but decided ultimately to bring things to a head.
The Court of Appeal, by a majority ruling, found that the Employment Tribunal had acted appropriately within the constraints of the law and subsequently reinstated its findings. It was a difficult case however the Employment Tribunal concluded on the evidence presented that the dismissal was premature. The compensation to be awarded is still to be assessed with the hopes that a settlement may be reached, eliminating any further hearings or legal involvement.
If you are an employer then it is advised to keep a full record of an absence by employees and any impact it may have on the business, to be potentially used as supporting evidence in the future if you take the decision to terminate their employment. If you need help or advice then contact us online or call us today on 0800 3 10 11 12.