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University slammed as dismissed lecturer secures settlement

7 January 2022

UCU has today slammed the University of Huddersfield after a sacked lecturer secured a £100,000 award because the institution refused to reinstate him, despite being ordered to do so by an employment tribunal.

A tribunal ruled in July 2021 that Mr Jonathan Duxbury had won the right to return to work and should be reinstated by the university into his role as a senior lecturer in the department of accounting, finance and economics. However, the university ignored the ruling, refusing repeatedly to reinstate Mr Duxbury despite the union and its lawyers reminding the institution of its legal obligations under the tribunal's ruling.

This financial award comes after a multi-year battle with the university over its unfair requirement for Mr Duxbury to complete a PhD or face losing his job. This despite him having a professional qualification in accountancy and being a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

He enrolled for a PhD the following year but informed his employer of concerns that the heavy workload would not be possible alongside his work commitments, and that it would have a negative impact on his mental health, as he had suffered from stress. After several disciplinary hearings, the university sacked him.

UCU instructed Thompsons Solicitors to begin legal proceedings and in July last year an employment tribunal agreed with UCU that Mr Duxbury should be reinstated. In a damning criticism the judge said the university had been 'wholly unreasonable' and had adopted a 'wholly closed mind' to Mr Duxbury's 'reasonable expectation that his health would be properly considered and the disciplinary approach be abandoned.'

At a final hearing on 4 January 2022, the university, while admitting that they could comply with the reinstatement order, chose not to, and rather than take back a well-respected lecturer with years of loyal service, have made a calculated decision not to allow Mr Duxbury to work to retirement, which would most likely have allowed him to earn more than the Tribunal had power to award him. The union described the university's actions as being 'cold and calculated' and called for reform to the employment tribunal system so that employers cannot undermine rulings in the future.

UCU regional support official Max Beckmann said:

'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. 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.'

Last updated: 10 January 2022