This case involved 8 claimants who were all employed by Tavistock & Summerhill School, a private school which was due to close because of decrease in the number of pupils entering the school. 6 of the claimants were teachers, another was the head teacher, and another was the bursar/acting deputy head teacher.
The school was eventually saved when a group of parents banded together, forming a new Board of Governors. The new Board offered alternative roles to the 6 claimants who were teachers, but these offers came only a few days before their notice was due to expire. The head teacher was not offered an alternative position.
Several claims were made to the Employment Tribunal (ET) in relation to the redundancy exercise.
The ET found that the head teacher had been unfairly dismissed because insufficient steps had been taken to offer an alternative role.
Where alternative positions are offered, statutory redundancy pay is not payable when the employee unreasonably refuses a position that is ‘suitable’. The ET found that the teachers had not unreasonably refused the alternative positions because, at the point they were offered, a significant period of time had lapsed and all had secured alternative employment or other arrangements.
All staff were awarded a protective award in relation to a failure to consult on the redundancies
by the Board.
The School appealed several findings of the judgement to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. All points in relation to the above findings were dismissed.
Specifically on the point of refusal of the alternative positions, the EAT found that the ET was entitled to find that the very late offer of alternative positions, after all staff had secured other arrangements, rendered the refusals reasonable. The standing of unfair dismissal in relation to the Head Teacher also stood.
In relation to the failure to inform and consult, the EAT rejected the argument that the protective award should be reduced in relation to the head teacher, and the bursar/acting deputy head teacher because they had been involved in discussions at management level with the Governors in the run up to their dismissals. A clear distinction must be drawn, it said, between the discussions with a view to saving the school at a high management level and actual consultation with employees about job losses.