Can the suspension of a teacher breach the implied term of mutual trust and confidence giving them recourse to claim constructive unfair dismissal?

Year Published: 2019

You may have read my previous blog on the case London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo which considers whether a teacher could claim constructive unfair dismissal as a result of suspension. The case has been heard for a second time, in the Court of Appeal, and the ruling is one that teachers and employers need to take note of.

What’s happened in this unfair dismissal case?

In this case, the primary school teacher was suspended after allegedly using excessive force on two young pupils with special educational needs. The teacher subsequently resigned. Due to having less than two years qualifying service she claimed breach of contract in the County Court and bought a claim that the suspension amounted to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence that forms part of the employment relationship.

The County Court dismissed her claim.

She appealed to the High Court which found it was not ‘reasonable and/or necessary’ to suspend and went on to state that the suspension was a breach of trust and confidence because the teacher had not been asked for her initial response to the allegations, and an alternative to suspension had not been considered.

The employer appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the decision of the County Court, and decided there was no breach of trust and confidence. Explaining that the legal test was whether the Head Teacher had reasonable and proper cause to suspend, and not whether it was necessary to suspend.

So can the suspension of a teacher lead to claims of unfair dismissal?

We will have to wait to see if the teacher appeals to the Supreme Court but this case emphasises:

  • Suspension should not be knee jerk reaction;
  • The need to record your deliberations and reasons for suspension;
  • Keep the suspension under regular review; and
  • Discussions with the accused should form part of any decision to suspend or to continue suspension at each review.

For more advice on the suspension of a teacher or claims of unfair dismissal, please contact our Employment team on 0161 475 7676 or email [email protected].

You can read more about this case here.

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