Unfair dismissal compensation for teacher due to serious procedural error

Employers should take note of a Northern Ireland employment tribunal decision in respect of a teacher who received £3,000 compensation because the grammar school she worked at failed to follow the established dismissal procedure.

The law that offers protection to employees against unfair dismissal requires certain minimum steps to be included in the disciplinary procedure, which is known as the 'statutory minimum procedures'. They establish that a disciplinary process should include the following:

  • a letter explaining the reasons that disciplinary action is being taken or contemplated
  • a meeting to discuss that matter
  • a reasoned disciplinary decision
  • an opportunity for the employee to appeal the decision

 

A dismissal will be deemed automatically unfair if an employer fails to follow this process, regardless of the merits of the reasons for the decision to dismiss.

This was the finding by the employment tribunal in the case of Ciara Hambly who worked as a teacher in Enniskillen Royal Grammar School for just over 2 years. She received a letter saying that the position she had been covering had come to an end, with the person in that position accepting voluntary redundancy. The school was reducing the number of full-time teachers and Ms Hambly's employment was terminated on 30th June 2018.

While the tribunal said that Ms Hambly had expected her termination in June 2018 frim the moment she started her employment, the school still had to follow the statutory procedure for dismissal. There was no interview, decision and no opportunity to appeal. The tribunal called this "a serious procedural error" and said it was "extremely regrettable that the respondent failed to follow a widely known and obvious procedure."

If you are an employer or employee requiring legal advice in respect of a disciplinary process or unfair dismissal claim, contact one of the employment law solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.