Lecturer made redundant amid role confusion wins £55,000

A former college lecturer has won £55,000 after being told by her employer that it no longer needed somebody to fill the role she was originally hired for. Miss Anderson worked for Shillington College from August 2011 until her dismissal in November 2016, the Central London Employment Tribunal heard.

The background

Shillington College, a graphic design college, has campuses in Australia, the UK and the US. The college employed Anderson initially as a lecturer at its Sydney campus before moving her to Melbourne in 2012. A year later Mr Shillington, the college’s founder and chief executive, approached Anderson and offered her the position of head of teaching in London. Anderson accepted, and was granted a Tier 2 visa. She agreed a salary of £50,000, along with a relocation package, with her new line manager Ms McHugh.

But towards the end of 2013, Shillington and McHugh informed Anderson that she would not be working as head of teaching, and would take the positon of senior lecturer. Anderson was disappointed with this decision, but agreed to the change.

In July 2015, Shillington emailed Anderson about her failure to meet deadlines and alleged decisions to discuss confidential matters with her colleagues, as well as her “poor decision-making.” Shillington also alleged that this was not the first time he had had to reprimand Anderson, and that he was “considering the college’s position” with regards to her role and placing her “on notice” following three warnings.

Later that month Shillington warned Anderson that he believed she had now reached the first stage of the college’s disciplinary procedure. He told Anderson that she could appeal this decision, but she did not.

In early September 2016, after being told that her role would be changing to focus on part-time teaching, Anderson became unhappy with the lack of progress she felt she was making in her career. In October 2016 Anderson raised grievance with McHugh, but this was rejected. Anderson received a letter ten days later notifying her that, because the college no longer required a head of teaching, she was at risk of redundancy.

On 10 November, Anderson raised a complaint about her possible redundancy. On 15 November she was informed that McHugh would hear her grievance outcome appeal, but this was rejected. Anderson was dismissed later that month.

The case

 The Central London Employment Tribunal allowed the claim for unfair dismissal, and the judge claimed that college could not “hide behind its own lack of paperwork or inconsistency” to blur events. Additionally, the tribunal agreed that Anderson had not in fact been fulfilling the role of head of teaching, and was instead working as a senior lecturer.

The tribunal also found that the college had failed Anderson’s inability to meet deadlines, which the tribunal determined was because of a combination of a heady workload and a large amount of students arriving at the college at once. It also stated that this had been exacerbated by both of Anderson’s being hospitalised at the time.

Judge Norris criticised the college particularly for it’s failure to follow disciplinary procedures, which did not make for a “professional or compliant way to go about HR administration”.

What’s next?

 The tribunal’s decision reinforces the need for employers to be able to clearly explain, by reference to contemporaneous documents, how and why an alleged redundancy situation arose, and to follow a full and proper procedure that demonstrates genuine efforts to avoid dismissal.

The ruling emphasises that tribunals do not take an employer’s assertion of a redundancy situation at face value, and will examine the relevant circumstances leading to the dismissal in detail if necessary.

For more HR expertise and advice you can contact Alison here.

 

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