Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Grievances against senior staff

There has been a noticeable increase in cases on the hotline of grievances being taken out against ASCL members at all levels in the senior leadership team.

This appears primarily down to a change in regulations earlier in the year which made it difficult, if not impossible, to access an employment tribunal to pursue a claim of constructive dismissal unless a grievance has previously been raised. As predicted, this has resulted in an explosion of grievances.

It is important to realise that raising a grievance is a normal union action to support a member who is under pressure for competence. The grievance will characteristically be raised against the person who is in charge of the competence process and it is not uncommon for it to make accusations of bullying and harassment.

Since a grievance may be raised at any time, it is important to make sure that the grievance procedure is up to date, that it complies with the law and that governors are familiar with it.

It goes without saying that senior leaders should be extremely careful to ensure that their conduct is beyond reproach and reasonable misinterpretation. Where necessary, meetings should be witnessed and recorded. Problems with performance should not be taken up in an ad hoc fashion if disciplinary action leading to dismissal may eventually be contemplated.

The only approach worth following is to be painstaking, calm and correct. A person's good word and known character will not be sufficient for a defence. In the end it is evidence that will decide the matter and if the evidence is clearly documented and unequivocal, you can rest assured that you have done all you can to encourage a fair outcome.

ASCL field officers support members both who are taking out a grievance and who find themselves at the receiving end. If you believe you need the support of a field officer, contact the ASCL hotline on 0116 299 1122.

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