Facing dismissal because of long-term sick leave
Published 14 June 2023
After Clint was seriously injured as a result of a car accident the subsequent fight to save his job really did add insult to injury.
The PE teacher was in a speeding car being driven by a friend when it crashed into a wall and he suffered leg and back injuries.
Clint, who had worked at a secondary school for eight years without ever taking a day off, was off work on long-term sick leave following the accident.
The fight to save his job would prove to be a long, difficult and stressful one.
And it first started when the school learned he had been arrested following the crash, although he was not driving.
Police found drugs in the damaged vehicle and Clint was later arrested on possession of a Class B drug with intent to supply.
He was released on bail and later informed he would face no charges. His friend, and driver of the car, admitted the drugs belonged to him.
While Clint was off work and recovering from his injuries, he was contacted by the school, which had been made aware of his arrest.
Clint confirmed he had been arrested, but insisted the drugs had nothing to do with him. While Clint was still off work, he was later invited to take part in a fact-finding meeting.
The meeting was held remotely and just after the school had reopened after having to close because of the global pandemic.
The disciplinary investigation resulted in no further action being taken against a relieved Clint.
Clint remained off work recovering from his injuries. He kept in regular contact with the school.
The school went through the informal stage of its absence management policy, and referred Clint to occupational health (OH), after he had been off for six months.
The OH report in summary said Clint’s recovery, especially from his back injury could be prolonged because of the severity of it.
The report confirmed he was likely to have a disability covered by the Equality Act 2010.
In the following months, further welfare meetings took place with Clint, but his physical recovery was not going well and appointments to see specialists had been delayed.
After a 12-month absence, he was invited to attend a stage 4 meeting under the school’s absence management policy.
The letter notifying Clint to attend the meeting warned dismissal was a possible outcome.
Worried Clint contacted our Employee Support Centre for help with his case.
After our representative reviewed all of the information provided by Clint and the school, and discussed the case with him, he was convinced any decision to dismiss Clint could amount to an unfair dismissal and possibly discrimination because of a disability.
At the Stage 4 meeting our representative was keen to stress that Clint appreciated the support and patience the school had provided and shown.
However, our representative was strong in his assertion the action being taken was grossly unfair.
He explained this was based on the decision to unfairly and inexplicably skip stages 1 to 3 of the established and recognised absence management process; failure to acknowledge that Clint’s treatment and recovery had been delayed as a result of a backlog for medical treatment and assessment caused by the pandemic; and failure to consider reasonable adjustments to the process because he was likely to have a disability.
The school was adamant it had acted appropriately and fairly. It said it would provide an outcome within 10 working days.
The school did not dismiss Clint. It accepted that ‘an error’ had been made in missing stages of the process and agreed to make reasonable adjustments to its absence management process.
Unfortunately Clint did not recover sufficiently to enable him to physically return to his role as a PE teacher.
With support from our representative he later reached a settlement agreement with the school that allowed him to leave.
Money from that settlement went towards helping Clint to pursue a long-time ambition, which was to set up his own business.