Supporting our members: anatomy of a disciplinary case

Stuart Anderson · 27 July 2022

Negotiations executive Stuart Anderson, who covers Scotland, North and the Midlands for Prospect’s Education and Children’s Services Group, writes about how he recently helped a member in a disciplinary matter, how the case unfolded and, ultimately, the value of having trade union representation.

I recently represented a member at a Mullti-Academy Trust in a disciplinary matter. This was a relatively small Trust with between five and 10 primary schools spread over fairly close geographical area. The member worked across all schools but was generally based at the largest.

The allegations against the member were initially described as a breach of confidentiality and bringing the employer into disrepute. During an investigation interview, conducted by another head from the academy chain without HR support, it became clear that the headteacher at the school in which the member was based had accused them of sharing details about a teacher’s personal life with parents.

Outside of the allegation from the headteacher there was no evidence provided to support the claim and there did not seem to be a formal complaint from any teacher or parents.

The member however suspected that the allegation had some personal motivation as they had had to challenge the headteacher on several issues in the past, and they had not always responded professionally.

Due to the lack of evidence, I did not expect the investigation to proceed to a disciplinary hearing, and in a local authority or a better managed MAT it would not have done, however the member was invited to a formal disciplinary hearing.

In the lead-up to the hearing, no further evidence, or event outline of the case against the member was shared despite having been asked on several occasions.

On the morning of the disciplinary meeting, again, chaired by another headteacher from the MAT, I asked to speak privately with the HR support that the MAT had bought in from an outside consultancy.

I argued that either a proper investigation had not be completed, or that evidence had not been correctly shared with the member, both of which I said would be in breach of the ACAS code of practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

After a series of back-and-forth conversations and sometime waiting, we were informed that the MAT were not going to proceed with the hearing as there was no case to answer.

This was of course a good outcome for the member, but it should not have taken until the day of the hearing for this decision to be made and caused undue stress throughout the process.

In my experience, some MATs do have robust HR practices, though this is not the case across the board, and employees should always seek trade union advice.

In this case both the member and I believe that had it not been for Prospect’s intervention the hearing would have gone ahead and he would have faced a sanction.

The member in this case was grateful to have representation from a full-time official of Prospect and that Prospect does not represent teachers or support staff at the chain, and particularly that they were not in the same union as the headteachers both accusing and investigating him.

Education and children's services

Prospect represents nearly 3,000 professionals in education, children's services, early years, commissioning and children's social care.