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Unfairly sacked Canterbury teacher wins £40,000 – and could get more

By Lowri Stafford
St Edmund's School in Canterbury
St Edmund's School in Canterbury

A wrongly and unfairly sacked Canterbury school teacher has won nearly £40,000 compensation – and could get more after a decision by an employment judge.

Stephen Lund sued after he was dismissed in 2010 from his post at St Edmund’s School, where he had worked as a graphics and design teacher for almost 20 years.

The veteran master had become frustrated at the computer equipment he was using in class and was suspended after dismantling part of the system.

Mr Lund, 58, had also refused to allow a consultant who was supposed to be reporting on his teaching to observe the class he was taking.

He did not return to work and, four months later, in October that year, was invited to a meeting where he was handed a letter dismissing him from his £37,000-a-year job.

The school admitted wrongful dismissal in that Mr Lund was not given proper notice – and an employment tribunal also found that his sacking was unfair.

He was awarded damages of £19,413 for wrongful dismissal and compensation of £18,329 for unfair dismissal, but complained that his payout was not enough.

Now the case is heading back to court after the Employment Appeal Tribunal said the way the case was dealt with in the first place was flawed.

Giving his judgment, Mr Justice Keith said the lower tribunal had used the wrong method to calculate Mr Lund’s compensation for loss of pension.

It had also been wrong in the way it considered whether to increase Mr Lund’s payout to reflect the school’s alleged breach of the ACAS employment code of practice.

The judge said Mr Lund was told the reason he was sacked was a breakdown in trust and confidence and that many other members of staff simply did not want to work with him.

However, his dismissal was unfair because he was not warned of the purpose of the October 2010 meeting and so could not prepare for it.

No one had attempted to deal with Mr Lund’s concerns about the computer system before “attitudes hardened on both sides”, added the judge.

But since the tribunal considered his own conduct had contributed to the decision to sack him, his award was cut by 65%.

Sending the case back to the original tribunal, Mr Justice Keith said it needed to consider whether Mr Lund’s award should be increased to reflect any failure of the school to follow the code of practice on disciplinary procedures.

“We remit the case to the same tribunal for it to decide whether the school’s failure to comply with the code was unreasonable, whether it is just and equitable for an uplift to be awarded, and if so by what percentage,” he said.

“We also set aside that part of the tribunal’s award which relates to Mr Lund’s pension loss. Again, we remit the case to the same tribunal for it to reconsider that part of the award in the light of this judgment.”

St Edmund’s School bursar Bob Smith declined to comment, pending the outcome of the further tribunal hearing.

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