Teacher sacked after menopause symptoms worsened by school move awarded £60,000

Allison Shearer won her employment tribunal against South Lanarkshire Council at a hearing in Glasgow.

South Lanarkshire teacher sacked after menopause symptoms worsened by school move awarded £60,000 Google Maps

An English teacher who was fired after her menopause symptoms got worse amid a dispute over moving to a different school has been awarded more than £60,000 for unfair dismissal.

Allison Shearer won her employment tribunal against South Lanarkshire Council at a hearing in Glasgow.

Mrs Shearer, who was based at Clydesdale Support Base in Carluke, worked with pupils with additional needs, and had been told she would be moved to Kear School in Blantyre after she disagreed with a plan to allow a pupil who had asthma to vape in every class.

In the disagreement, she told headteacher Neil Govan she did not want to move to a school with high levels of violence because she feared it would increase her blood pressure and menopause symptoms.

The tribunal heard the English teacher’s health concerns were ignored and she was later sacked.

In a meeting with staff, Mr Govan suggested that supervising the pupil’s vaping was an “aspect of the duty of care owed by teaching staff to pupils”. 

Mrs Shearer objected to supervising the vaping, because she thought that it presented a risk of injury given that the pupil had asthma.

The tribunal found that there was no evidence to support the claim that moving Mrs Shearer out of her role at that school was a “punishment beating” for her objection to supervising vaping.

At the time she was instructed to move to Kear School, Mrs Shearer was taking prescribed medication for high blood pressure, anxiety, low mood and menopausal symptoms. 

The planned move made her extremely anxious as she “believed that there were high levels of violence and injuries to teaching staff at that school”.

The tribunal documents said that she felt it was “inevitable that she would be assaulted, that she would not be supported when it happened and that she would be blamed for the incident”.

It added that she was concerned that her high blood pressure would worsen and that her levels of anxiety and low mood could become difficult to manage.

The tribunal said Mrs Shearer also had “regular nightmares and disrupted sleep” and “found it difficult to think about anything except the move to Kear School”.

It also found that Mr Govan’s response to an occupational health report into the English teacher’s situation was “dismissive, intransigent and unhelpful”.

While Mrs Shearer was on sick leave from work, she was called to a capability meeting which gave her an “ultimatum” with four days notice to move to a permanent supply teaching role, or into a school for pupils with severe disabilities, which she “did not think that she had the skills or training to undertake such a post responsibly”.

Mrs Shearer, who had been based at the Clydesdale Secondary Support Base between 2015 and 2022, teaching English to Higher level, and maths and health and wellbeing to SQA National 5 level, was replaced by a primary supply teacher when she was removed from that post.

Kear Campus, which is South Lanarkshire Council’s group of schools for pupils with additional social, emotional and behaviour needs, provides full and part-time education across several bases in the county.

The tribunal heard pupils at Kear School in Blantyre were those “most likely to exhibit distressed behaviour through violence, causing damage to property or attending under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other substances”.

The judge concluded that “no reasonable employer would have insisted” that Mrs Shearer teach at Kear School, given the effect of that proposal on her health.

She was awarded a total of £61,074.55 for unfair dismissal, loss of earnings and compensation for injury to feelings.

The court added she was a “talented, experienced and successful teacher of English” who would be able to find another job near her home in East Renfrewshire.

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