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Employment Appeal Tribunal confirms allegations of historical child abuse do not justify dismissal

17th February, 2014

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has confirmed in the recent case of Z v A, A v Z UKEAT/0203/13, that allegations of historical child abuse alone do not amount to some other substantial reason (“SOSR”) justifying dismissal.

A primary school was informed by police that its caretaker, A, was subject to an allegation of historic child abuse. The alleged victim confirmed the allegation to the school, who subsequently suspended A. Although no charges were brought against A during his year-long suspension, following the headteacher’s assertion that there had been a break down of all trust and confidence in A, he was dismissed.

The Employment Tribunal held that the school had failed to show SOSR to justify A’s dismissal. The school had also acted in an unreasonable manner by proceeding straight to dismissal on the mere fact of the allegation. It was held that the school had incorrectly applied the balance between the welfare of its pupils and the interests of the employee. As such, A’s dismissal was unfair.

On appeal by both parties, the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the Employment Tribunal’s decision.

The investigating police had not expressed to the school that the allegation was credible nor did they warn the school against employing A. The school’s appeal was therefore dismissed on the basis that SOSR must be “of a kind justifying dismissal” and could not be loosely attached to a case where a fair reason for dismissal cannot be identified.

A also cross-appealed the Tribunal’s decision not to award damages for the psychiatric injury he suffered arising from the dismissal. In dismissing his appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal was unable to find that the dismissal had caused the psychiatric injury, as opposed to the allegation itself.

For further information and advice on dealing with conduct outside the workplace, please contact Claire Brook on 01244 405575 or send an email to [email protected].

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