In Davies v LB Haringey, a decision of Mr. Justice Supperstone handed down on today (17 October 2014), the claimant was a teacher who had been on full time release for trade union duties for 14 years. At the time she went on release, she was working at a community school, so by section 35 of the Education Act 2002 her employer was the local authority rather than the governing body.
In 2014, the council wished to investigate disciplinary allegations against her and suspended her in relation to breaches of the council’s Code of Conduct and Social Media Policy. She claimed that this was a breach of her employment contract, asserting that, by reason of regulation 19 the School Staffing (England) Regulations 2009, only the governing body had the power to suspend her.
The Council, represented by Peter Oldham QC of 11KBW, argued that the Regulations applied only to those worked in schools, and the reality of the situation was that the claimant had not done so for a long time. Further the Council argued that regulation 19 of Regulations gave a power to the governing body to suspend but did not take away the Council’s power to suspend under the contract of employment.
The judge agreed with both of the Council’s contentions. Whilst the facts were very unusual (on account of the teacher’s absence from the school on trade union duties), nevertheless, the determination that the local authority retains statutory powers of suspension and discipline, at least in exceptional cases, is significant.