A Sheffield teacher has been awarded over £70,000, the maximum an Employment Tribunal can award, in a case against her former employer, a secure children’s centre, for being unfairly dismissed.
Tracey Smith, a teacher who worked at Aldine House School, a Sheffield Council secure centre for children with behavioural problems, was dismissed in May 2011 for handing out an inappropriate sanction for a student’s misbehaviour, for fractious relationships with colleagues and for failure to complete a risk assessment for gardening activities.
Just months prior to her suspension Tracey had reported to management that the bullying behaviour of her line manager was placing herself and the young people in the unit at risk by ignoring alarm calls. Having initially acknowledged there was an issue, management were failing to deal with the problem which led to the line manager sending Ms Smith home following a difficult situation with a young person. This in turn became a suspension and later led to her dismissal.
The first hearing in September 2012 found Ms Smith to have been unfairly dismissed and awarded over £18,000 for loss of earnings. A second hearing, held in court on Monday 21st January has now awarded Tracey Smith a further £52,400, the maximum amount a tribunal can award in compensation.
During the hearing, it was found that Tracey Smith was simply following a management instruction orders issuing a ‘red card’ sanction (which bars the young person from all social activities until they have earned the right to return), something which Ms Smith disagreed with at the time, stating she believed this would have a negative impact on the student’s behaviour and that Restorative Justice would have been more effective.
The dismissal has had a huge impact on Tracey who is currently still out of work, after being placed on the ‘dismissed persons register’, hindering any chances of gaining new employment. Ms Smith’s name has only recently been removed from the register after her fight to clear her name.
Speaking of her ordeal, Tracey Smith commented “I am so pleased with the result. To prove my innocence and show that I have been unfairly treated was my goal and thanks to Scott Sim, my solicitor, and John Stevenson , my Trade Union Official I now feel vindicated”
Scott Sim of Howells Solicitors said “We are very happy with the result of this hearing. Miss Smith was found to be subjected to an unfair dismissal which has had a large impact on her life and hindered her attempts to gain employment elsewhere. We are pleased that justice has been achieved for Tracey and she can now move forward.”
At the time of the initial hearing in September, Sheffield City Council claimed that Aldine House was due to be closed and so any further hearings were postponed. Since then Aldine House has remained open resulting in a second hearing where Ms Smith was awarded further compensation.
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