18 Mar 2019

Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo [2019] EWCA Civ 322

Facts

Ms Agoreyo taught a class of up to 29 five and six year old children, two of whom had very challenging behavioural problems. It was alleged that she had used unreasonable force against these children three times. Ms Agoreyo was suspended and resigned almost immediately. She brought a claim against her employer in the county court, alleging that her suspension was a repudiatory breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence. The court rejected her claim and the High Court allowed her appeal. Her employer appealed.

Decision

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. It held that the county court was entitled to find that the school had reasonable and proper cause for suspending Ms Agoreyo in order to investigate the allegations, and it was open to the court to conclude that there was no breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. The High Court had fallen into the trap of interfering with the county court judge's findings of fact. The High Court was also wrong to ask whether it was reasonable and/or necessary for the teacher to be suspended. There is no test of necessity; the only test is whether there is reasonable and proper cause to suspend an employee. In addition, the High Court should not have considered whether suspension was a neutral act, as this was not relevant or helpful.

Comment

This is a useful reminder that an employee should only be suspended if there is reasonable and proper cause. In practice, this means that the allegations against the employee are serious and the employee needs to be suspended in order for a proper investigation to be carried out and/or to avoid any recurrence of the allegations. Employees should receive full pay while they are suspended in order to avoid the suspension being seen as a disciplinary act.