Case Review: Special Needs Teacher “Dismissed Unfairly”

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Case Review: Special Needs Teacher “Dismissed Unfairly”

As reported by the Watford Observer last week, a former special needs teacher was “dismissed unfairly” from Central Primary School in Watford.

Kay Hart had been sacked after suffering severe depression, following the sudden death of her husband.

An Employment Tribunal heard that Mrs Hart’s husband of 26 years, Graham, died suddenly at the age of 56 from heart failure in April 2011. At the time, Mrs Hart was entitled to 5 days compassionate leave before she was expected to return to the school. The Employment Tribunal heard that the senior management team at the school had found that she “seemed to have lost enthusiasm for her job”.

Mrs Hart’s statement to the Employment Tribunal said “the school made no attempt to understand my situation or to make the according adjustments. I found this insensitive as, at the time, I was getting through each day as best I could”.

The Employment Tribunal found that the school’s comment that she had lost enthusiasm was a “rather insensitive comment”.

Concurrent with her depression and dealing with the death of her husband, her teaching had been rated “satisfactory” by OFSTED and was to be given support by the school to improve her performance. Her lesson plans were to be supervised by the headteacher as well as being subject to monitoring and spot-checks. In March 2012 Mrs Hart was signed off work with “moderate depression relating to bereavement”. In her statement to the Tribunal, Mrs Hart commented on the school’s actions and said that she “felt that I was being pushed out of a job I loved”.

The Judge ruled that Mrs Hart had been dismissed unfairly on the grounds of direct discrimination related to her disability. Her disability in this case was her depression following the sudden death of her husband.

A settlement has yet to be reached but Mrs Hart told the Watford Observer that “the impact has been absolutely devastating. It was devastating to lose my husband but then to lose my job as well…”