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Employment Law: Duty to disclose relationships

The Supreme Court has decided that a head teacher, Ms Reilly was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct, for failing to disclose to her school’s governing authority the fact that she had a close relationship with a sex offender. The teacher argued that she was under no duty to disclose the relationship. There was no clear clause in her contract requiring her to report such a relationship. She did not live with the offender, although they owned a house together as an investment. They went on holiday together. She was a named driver on his car insurance. They were not partners, but their relationship was thought to be more than a financial one.

The Supreme Court (and every tribunal and court before that) disagreed with Ms Reilly. It ruled that she was in breach of her contract by failing to report the relationship. As a head teacher with safeguarding responsibilities, she should have realised that her association with this man, posed a risk to the children in her care. She had a duty to inform the school, so that protective steps could be taken. It was not for the teacher to decide whether her relationship gave rise to a risk of harm. There were many ways in which the offender could have used his friendship with Ms Reilly to gain access to the school’s pupils.

Sandwell Metropolitan District Council and the school in question had fairly dismissed Ms Reilly. Her refusal to accept that she had been in breach of her duty suggested a continuing lack of insight making it inappropriate for her to continue to run the school.

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