• Robert Spicer

Suspension from work: not neutral: breach of contract

BREACH OF CONTRACT

Implied term of mutual trust and confidence

Suspension

Case Agoreyu v London Borough of Lambeth (2017) Morning Star, October 6, High Court

Facts Ms A was a teacher with 15 years experience. She started work on a fixed term contract teaching five and six-year olds. She was told that two of the children had behavioural difficulties. It was agreed that she needed more support. In December 2012 she was suspended on full pay by the head teacher following three incidents in which she had allegedly used force against the two children. The suspension letter stated that the suspension was a neutral act and that it had been imposed to allow an investigation to be carried out. Ms A resigned and claimed breach of contract, specifically breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. The county court dismissed the claim on the basis that the school had no alternative but to suspend her in order to protect the children in its care. Ms A appealed to the High Court.

Decision 1. The appeal was allowed.

  1. Suspension is not a neutral act. In relation to the employment of a qualified professional it inevitably casts a shadow over their competence.

  2. The statutory guidance for local authorities makes it clear that all other options should be considered before suspending a member of staff. Suspension should not be the default option and individuals should only be suspended if there was no reasonable alternative.

  3. Instead of suspending Ms A, the school should have given Ms A an opportunity to respond to the allegations before considering both suspension and possible alternatives.

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