Winckworth Sherwood

UK 200 2013 position: 94

Can you be dismissed for mere allegations of sexual abuse?

In the case of Z v A, it was decided that the dismissal of a school caretaker based on police information about an unproven allegation of historic child sex abuse was unfair.

Legally, for an employer to avoid an unfair dismissal claim, it must demonstrate one of five potentially fair reasons for dismissal, being conduct, capability, redundancy, breach of a statutory restriction or ‘some other substantial reason of a kind such as to justify the dismissal’ (SOSR). Once a reason has been established, the employer must also then show that it acted reasonably in treating the reason as a sufficient reason for dismissal.

In a previous similar case, it was held that an employee was fairly dismissed based on police information about an unproven allegation of historic sex abuse, the reason being SOSR. The dismissal was fair bearing in mind a combination of the reputational risk if the matter became public and the irreparable breakdown in trust and confidence that had resulted from the allegations. Importantly, the police in this case expressed the view that the employee posed a continuing threat, which meant that (on these specific facts) the reason for the dismissal was considered fair. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal warned of the grave injustice that might occur by justifying such a dismissal on the basis of reputational risk without any established misconduct…

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