We acted for a Multi Academy Trust who has expertise in special educational needs, particularly on the autistic spectrum including Asperger’s. We advised the Trust in relation to a series of increasingly vexatious complaints and claims made by the parents of a pupil.
The pupil at the centre of the complaint was involved in a serious physical altercation with two other pupils, resulting in the pupil being hospitalised. The other pupils were dealt with in accordance with statutory guidance and the Trust’s existing policies. The parents were unhappy with the Trust’s approach so raised a formal complaint against the Trust and issued a data subject access request (SAR) on behalf of the pupil. The firm advised on the complaint and advised on nuanced data protection issues arising from the SAR.
Both had to be carefully handled due to an on-going police investigation into the incident. The parents later issued a complaint to the ICO and contacted local media. We provided legal advice on the Trust’s media strategy. When the parents became abusive towards particular members of staff, the firm advised on steps the Trust should take to protect its staff. The parents intimated damages and discrimination claims against the Trust, but due to successful management of litigation risk throughout, these claims were disposed of. The team worked closely with the Trust’s governing body and executive team throughout. Due to the array of different claims and complaints brought by the parents, expertise from across teams in the firm was required, from litigation to data protection and education law. We therefore helped our client reduce the litigation risk and we prevented adverse media coverage.
School incorrectly advised about employee’s sick pay entitlement
We acted for a large secondary school academy in London. We were contacted for advice on handling a grievance from a longstanding employee. The employee was employed part-time but had been suffering from a period of ill-health. She had agreed with the client that she would return to work on a full-time basis after the summer holiday. The employee did not return to work and claimed sick pay based on her full-time employment. Our client had been advised incorrectly by a HR consultancy that as the employee had not returned to work, the full-time contract was not enforceable by the employee. Our client subsequently tried to claw back overpaid sick pay and the employee then complained with the support of the National Union of Teachers.
We assisted the school by providing advice on the employee’s entitlement. We also advised in relation to any potential discrimination claim that could be bought by the employee in light of the long term sickness. Once the legal position was correctly established, we assisted with a strategy for a hearing and subsequent appeal hearing. The matter was bought to close with minimal cost and publicity for our client.
School therapist sets up competing business using school’s materials
We acted for a secondary school that provides specialist education for autistic children and young people. We were approached by the school when a speech and language therapist did not return to work after the Christmas break. The employee gave notice and was signed off as sick by his GP for work-related stress for the duration of his notice period. It quickly came to the head teacher’s attention that the employee had since contacted the client’s clinical psychologist, inviting him to leave the client and join his new company. The employee had then contacted a nearby school and was pitching his new company’s services, including pitching for services he had carried out on behalf of our client, using our client’s materials. The head teacher suspended the employee with pay and began investigating the matter. We advised the client as to the merits of any claim and steps that could be taken to minimise the risk of a claim. We also advised on the practical steps that the client should take regarding the employee’s competing business, both against the employee and generally. Acting on that advice, the client was able to ensure that its property was returned by the employee and that the employee did not bring any claims against the client. The remainder of the employee’s notice period expired without further incident. As a result the client was able to minimise litigation risk from the employee, protect its position in the marketplace, and avoid financial expenditure and loss of management time. It was also important that the client as able to resolve the matter without damaging existing professional relationships with other local schools.