University of Huddersfield told to pay £100,000 to sacked lecturer

Employment tribunal orders university to pay damages to Jonathan Duxbury after refusing to reinstate him

The University of Huddersfield has been ordered to pay £100,000 in damages to a senior lecturer it dismissed almost one year ago.

The settlement follows a lengthy legal battle between accountancy lecturer Jonathan Duxbury and the University of Huddersfield, which began when the provider told Mr Duxbury in 2013 that he needed to complete a PhD to keep his job – in line with the university’s policy that requires all teaching staff to have a PhD.

The lecturer, who had been working for the University of Huddersfield since 2005, enrolled for a PhD the following year but expressed concerns to his employer about the heavy workload and its negative impact on his mental health, and abandoned the PhD on doctor’s orders. After several disciplinary hearings, the university dismissed him on 16 January 2020.

The University and College Union (UCU) began legal proceedings against the University of Huddersfield on Mr Duxbury’s behalf and a Leeds employment tribunal on 29 April 2021 ruled he had been unfairly dismissed.

At a later hearing on 27 July 2021, an employment tribunal judge agreed that Mr Duxbury should be reinstated by the university into his role as a senior lecturer in the department of accounting, finance and economics.

However, the university did not reinstate Mr Duxbury by the judge’s 10 August deadline. Reinstatement cannot be legally enforced, but employers in breach of reinstatement orders are liable to pay damages to employees who have been unfairly dismissed.

At a final hearing on 4 January 2022, the university confirmed it would not to allow Mr Duxbury to return to work, action the UCU has described as “cold and calculated”. The UCU also called for reform to the employment tribunal system.

“The University of Huddersfield blatantly ignored an employment tribunal order in the knowledge that the employment tribunal system has no teeth to hold employers to account for such unlawful and unreasonable behaviour,” said UCU regional support official Max Beckmann.

“The university should never have dismissed our member for refusing to comply with an unreasonable management instruction, and when the tribunal found in Jonathan’s favour, it should have done the right thing and reinstated him. The fact the university chose not to allow Mr Duxbury to work to retirement, which would have likely cost more than the settlement awarded by the tribunal, says a great deal about the ethics of its leadership and how the institution treats its staff.

“While the excellent legal representation our member received enabled him to be awarded the maximum possible in damages, this case highlights the urgent need for employment tribunal reform to ensure that employers cannot undermine the authority of the Employment Tribunal and ride roughshod over the employment law rights of workers.”

Photo © Copyright Steve Fareham

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