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A fair dismissal?

Was a Probation Service Officer fairly dismissed for failing to disclose child protection issues?

In Q v Secretary of State for Justice, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld an employment tribunal’s decision that a Probation Service Officer was fairly dismissed for failing to inform her employer about her ongoing dealings with social services in relation to a risk that she allegedly presented to her daughter.

The Claimant was employed by the Respondent in the Probation Service. In 2014 there was an incident at the Claimant’s home involving the Claimant and her daughter, who was then a teenager. It was alleged that the Claimant had been violent towards her daughter, which is something the Claimant vehemently denied. As a result, Social Services became involved and her daughter was placed on the Child Protection Register.

The Claimant was dismissed for failing to report the matter fully and promptly to the Respondent, despite a similar situation having arisen a year or so earlier for which she was given a final written warning. The Claimant brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The employment tribunal dismissed the Claimant’s claim and found that it was reasonable for the Probation Service to dismiss given that the Claimant already had a final written warning for gross misconduct in almost similar circumstances. As such, the Claimant was aware of her obligation to inform the Respondent should there be any further issues between her and a family member for which social services were involved. The Claimant appealed to the EAT.

The EAT dismissed the Claimant’s appeal. The EAT held that the employment tribunal had properly considered the impact on the Claimant’s Article 8 rights of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) and had correctly found that these were engaged. It also found that, having regard to the nature of the Probation Service’s work, and its relationship with Local Authorities as statutory partners, the decision to dismiss by the Respondent was not an unjustified or disproportionate infringement of the Claimant’s Article 8 rights. The dismissal was overall fair.

This decision highlights the extent to which an employee’s private life, especially where they are employed in the public sector, can be a matter of concern for their employer. It also assists with providing guidance on when a dismissal can be justified in the situation where an employee refuses to share such information with their employer.

To discuss this article, or further advice, please contact our employment team on 0113 849 4000 or employment@schofieldsweeney.co.uk

"This decision highlights the extent to which an employee’s private life, especially where they are employed in the public sector, can be a matter of concern for their employer". 

About the Author

Rajveer Basra

Solicitor

Rajveer is a Solicitor who works in the Employment team.

She advises employers, senior executives,…

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