Employment Law Speed Read – 19/03/18
19th March, 2018
Following the decision of the Supreme Court in Reilly v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council  UKSC 16, this week's speed read discusses whether it is fair to dismiss a school employee for failing to disclose a relationship with someone convicted of a serious criminal office.
Reilly v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
Reilly was the head teacher of a primary school within the Respondent local authority. She had been qualified as a teacher for over 25 years and had an exemplary disciplinary record. She had a close, non-romantic relationship with a man who had been convicted of making indecent images of children.
Reilly was under a contractual duty to assist the school in discharging its duty to safeguard the pupils. Upon discovering this, the school placed Reilly on suspension and thereafter dismissed her. The school considered that the relationship engaged her contractual obligations, and the school’s safeguarding duties, and that failure to disclose the relationship amounted to a breach of such obligations.
Reilly brought an unfair dismissal claim on the basis that she was under no duty to disclose the relationship. The Tribunal accepted that the dismissal was procedurally unfair due to the unsatisfactory appeal hearing Reilly received (a fact that the Supreme Court later called “irrelevant”), but not in any other respect. The Tribunal therefore applied a 90% Polkey reduction, and in any event, reduced the compensation by 100% in light of Reilly’s contributory fault.
Her appeals were dismissed at the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court upheld the Tribunal’s view that the failure to disclose the relationship, justified dismissal. In addition, Lord Wilson commented that her failure to accept her breach of duty showed a “continuing lack of insight which, as it was reasonable to conclude, rendered it inappropriate for her to continue to run the school.”
These cases are often fact sensitive, however, the case highlights that schools may be entitled to dismiss employees for gross misconduct if it is found that they have breached their contractual duty to assist their employer with their safeguarding duty.
It is therefore important that staff members fully disclose all relationships that could affect their safeguarding duties and operations.
Schools should also ensure that they comply with:
Department for Education statutory guidance “Keeping Children Safe in Education” and
Department for Education guidance “Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006“.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our employment team or our education team.