Teacher redundancies ‘amounted to unfair dismissal’
Two teachers who were made redundant during a school reorganisation programme were unfairly dismissed.
That was the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in a case involving Gwynedd Council v Shelley Barratt & Ors (2020).
The teachers had been employed by the council to work at a community secondary school (School 1).
Under the Staffing of Maintained Schools (Wales) Regulations 2006, it was for the school's governing body to determine whether a person employed by the local authority to work at the school should cease to work there; once it notified the local authority of its determination, the local authority would then give notice of termination.
Due to a reorganisation of local education, the council decided to close School 1 and replace it with a new community school (School 2) from September 2017 at the same location.
It told affected staff that all existing employment contracts would be terminated on 31 August 2017 and the staffing of School 2 would be determined by an application/interview process. Unsuccessful candidates would be made redundant unless suitable alternative employment was found for them within the local authority.
Two teachers applied unsuccessfully for positions at School 2 and were made redundant.
The agreed facts before the Employment Tribunal were that the teachers had not been given an opportunity to make representations or to appeal to the governing body of School 1 prior to their dismissals, as required by the Regulations.
The tribunal found that the dismissals were unfair because of the failure to provide the teachers with a right of appeal, the absence of consultation and the way they had to apply for the jobs.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld that decision.
It held that the Regulations conferred on the governing body the power to determine whether a teacher should continue to be employed at a school.
The tribunal had therefore been entitled to conclude that, where ordinarily the teachers had an expectation of an appeal to the governing body, the absence of any appeal gave rise to unfairness.
Please contact Jackie Cuneen if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.