Teacher dismissed for missing a staff meeting!

A music teacher at a private school was dismissed when she did not attend a staff meeting after learning that her 90-year-old mother had cancer. She was successful in her claim for unfair dismissal with the judge stating that “no reasonable employer” would have dismissed her.

An employment tribunal was told that the teacher had emailed the director of the school to explain that she would have to miss the staff meeting because of family commitments. She then had arranged to discuss with her siblings the care of her mother, who had recently received a cancer diagnosis.

During the tribunal, it was stated the director had already formed the view that the teacher was a “difficult” staff member. The tribunal heard that she was sent an email saying: “Resignation accepted.” Arguing that the music teacher was guilty of “gross misconduct” for missing the meeting.

The tribunal heard that friction developed between the director and the teacher owing in part to his wish for her to become self- employed “given the time she has off and to allow her to manage her outside interests, which include a gin-making business”.

The tribunal heard that in 2021 an email was issued to staff insisting they attend a mandatory meeting in the school. The claimant responded that she was unable to attend because she was scheduled to see her sister, who was travelling from a distance, and other family members.

The tribunal ruling said that the family gathering could not be rearranged but it noted that the claimant had stated the importance of her meeting. The director responded, insisting that the staff meeting was not optional and that she was required to attend for one hour.

The exchange concluded in the “resignation accepted” email. When the claimant responded to say she had not resigned, a further email was received advised was formal notice that her employment was to cease.

After a four-day hearing, the judge found that the director had been “intent on dismissing her”. Compensation will be assessed later.

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