A school business manager recently won a case after being suspended from her role. The claimant managed 15 staff at a Primary School in County Durham and controlled a budget of £1.2m. As the school business manager, she discussed her concerns about the school’s budget and projected income with a colleague. She was worried about having to make redundancies. Shortly after, she received a letter of suspension. The reason stated was ‘discussing concerns with a colleague and not the Senior Leadership Team’.
The case was referred to the Governors and the claimant was reinstated with no action. However, on return to work, she was informed she had to work in the main reception office updating databases until a performance improvement plan could be put in place. Line management duties were removed and her staff were told to report to a different colleague. Due to the position she found herself in, she resigned from her post.
The employment tribunal found that the way she was treated upon return to her post was a breach of “mutual trust and confidence” and that the suspension was “inappropriate and unreasonable”. A ruling of unfair dismissal was passed. The claims for age discrimination and harassment were not upheld.
When is suspension appropriate?
Suspension will normally be appropriate where: if proven, the employee’s conduct would be sufficiently serious to be grounds for summary dismissal; the employer has reason to believe that the employee might deliberately cause damage or create problems if allowed to remain at the workplace; or the employee’s continuing presence at work might prejudice the investigation in some way. Suspension is not usually appropriate in cases of minor misconduct.
When can I change an employee’s contractual terms?
An employer who is proposing to change an employee’s contract of employment should fully consult with that employee or his or her representative(s) and explain and discuss the reasons for the change. Failing to do so gives a significant risk of constructive unfair dismissal arising.
In the above case, failing to discuss these changes to her contractual terms and conditions on her return work without warning was unacceptable and such actions and treatment had breached the implied term of mutual trust and confidence.
If you need help with suspensions or changes to contractual terms, please get in touch with one of the team on 01924 827869.