Simone Agoreyo -v- London Borough of Lambeth (Appeal)

Employment & HR Article

25 September, 2017

Summary of the facts
The Appellant in this case was a newly appointed teacher at the school. It was alleged that within the first few weeks of her employment there were three incidents which occurred whilst dealing with particularly challenging children who had special educational needs, for which the Appellant had no particular experience or training. The incidents included removing the children from the class room and being seen to shout at them on the corridors.

The Appellant was suspended following these three incidents on 14 December 2012 on the basis that a fair investigation was to be carried out, which lead to the Appellant's resignation. Despite having reached out for help, additional support was only implemented the week of the Appellants suspension and thus insufficient time had lapsed to prove whether the Appellant had the capacity to cope with her class with this support in place.

Issues
The question for the court was whether the suspension was the appropriate response in this case. There were allegations from Judge Wulwik that he thought that the resignation was a ploy by the Appellant to avoid a thorough investigation - this opinion was wholly dismissed on appeal.

The legal perspective

Statutory guidance on suspension, key points are as follows:

  1. If an allegation is made against a teacher the quick resolution of that allegation should be a clear priority to all concerned. Any unnecessary delays should be eradicated.
  2. In response to an allegation all other options should be considered before suspending a member of staff, suspension should not be the default option. An individual should be suspended only if there is no reasonable alternative. If suspension is deemed appropriate, the reasons and justification should be recorded by the Employer and the individual notified of the reasons.

The Appeal
Mr Justice Foskett concluded that he believed the suspension of the Appellant was a "knee-jerk" reaction especially given that at least the two first incidents that had occurred had actually already been considered reasonable by the Head Teacher. On this basis he considered that the suspension was a breach of the implied term relation to trust and confidence.

He was unable to conclude that suspension was the ONLY option that was available to the school and the suspension was not justified as being for the protection of the children but was actually justified to allow for a fair investigation.

Finally, Mr Justice Foskett believed that there was nothing in the evidence to suggest that the Appellant was even given the chance to respond to the allegations in turn and give her "side of the story" so to speak before suspension was even considered and that any alternative was simply ignored.

Conclusion
The point to take away from this case is that Employers should not implement suspension as a default reaction and should give due consideration to alternative options that may be reasonable. All allegations should be considered carefully and Employees should be given the opportunity, if reasonable in the circumstances to respond to these allegations, before considering whether to suspend pending investigation.


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26 Jan 2018

Employment & HR

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