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Failing to disclose personal relationships can lead to Gross Misconduct

This week the Supreme Court ruled that the failure of a headteacher to disclose her personal relationship with a man with convictions could be classed as gross misconduct and therefore justified her dismissal.

The case, Reilly v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, concerned a headteacher’s relationship with a man who had been convicted of making indecent images of children. She was aware of his arrest and continued to be in a relationship with him after his conviction.

There was confusion about whether she should report this or not and she did seek advice from various sources. However, on reflection she decided it was not necessary. When the school found out they dismissed her for gross misconduct due to her failings to assist the school in safeguarding their pupils, which was a contractual duty.

The Court did acknowledge that the duty to report this was not expressly listed in her employment contract but that it was clear due to the nature of the conviction that this needed to be disclosed to the governing body. It was then up to the Governors in this case to decide upon action. Had she disclosed the relationship the Court felt that she would not have been dismissed from her role but that restrictions instead would have been agreed.

The court also noted that the Headteacher should have been in a more knowledgeable position, in regard to, safeguarding in her school and therefore how to deal with this situation.

This case acts as a reminder that school leadership teams must be aware of safeguarding legislation and how that should be applied. A clear process should be established for any situation that requires further advice so that everyone understands their responsibilities. Had the correct process been followed in this case, according to the Court’s summary it would have been “unlikely” that the Headteacher would have been dismissed.

If you need help with safeguarding training, policies or reviewing contracts in relation to safeguarding responsibilities please get in touch with our team on 01924 827869.

Full case details can be accessed here https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0170-judgment.pdf and http://ukscblog.com/new-judgment-a-v-b-a-local-authority-2018-uksc-16/

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