A school business manager has successfully won her claim for unfair dismissal after she was demoted to a role carrying out “officey things”.
Zena Dickenson, who managed 15 staff at Easington Lane Primary School in County Durham and controlled a budget of £1.2m, became concerned that the school’s projected income would not be reached because of a funding shortfall.
After mentioning to a colleague that this shortfall could result in redundancies, Dickenson, who had worked for the school for 21 years, was suspended from her managerial role in December 2015. According to her suspension letter, the action was taken for discussing her concerns with a colleague, rather than with the senior leadership team.
After the case was referred to a governor’s disciplinary panel, Dickenson’s suspension was lifted and the school took no formal action.
Dickenson returned to work in February 2016 however her line management duties were removed and she was required to work in the main reception office and update the school’s databases, until a performance improvement plan had been put in place.
The business manager claimed another member of staff had told her that, once the databases had been updated, she would be able to get on with “officey things”.
Dickenson felt she was “left with no choice” but to leave, and resigned in April 2016 on the grounds that her suspension was unnecessary and unfair.
The employment tribunal unanimously concluded that Dickenson’s treatment on her return to the school was a breach of “mutual trust and confidence” because she was demoted without discussion or consent and her unfair dismissal claim succeeded.