A teacher sacked by Aberdeenshire Council after just one week has been awarded damages following an employment tribunal.
Robert Burke relocated more than 300 miles to take up a maternity-cover post at Auchenblae Primary in 2017, but was dismissed after just five days.
Aberdeenshire Council officials made the decision based on a reference they received over the phone from Mr Burke’s previous employers.
But following a tribunal in Aberdeen, judge Andrew Kemp ruled there had been “no evidence whatsoever” offered to substantiate any wrongdoing on Mr Burke’s part.
He awarded the teacher £7,272 in damages for the council’s breach of contract and said in his ruling that the way he had been dismissed was “at the least ambiguous” and “at worst, misleading”.
The tribunal heard that in September 2017, Mr Burke, from Oldham, had been offered the job at Auchenblae and relocation package of up to £8,000.
After passing all the relevant checks, he took up the fixed-term maternity-cover post on October 2, 2017, and was expected to continue until July 6, 2018.
However, the tribunal heard that his contract was terminated after a week following a phone call with his previous employer at Westminster International School in Pisa.
The council’s HR adviser, Louise Fife, said it was “normal practice” to approach previous employers to find out what level of pay they had been on.
The conversation prompted “serious concern” and the decision was taken to immediately dismiss Mr Burke.
A contract was then sent out to Mr Burke three weeks later, which stated his fixed-term contract was only for a week – failing to mention he had been taken on as maternity cover.
The council’s solicitor, Robin Taylor, told the tribunal the contract had probably been “generated automatically” and insisted it was not a direct attempt to falsify the document.
But in his ruling, the judge said the termination letter sent to Mr Burke also gave him “consider concern” and added: “It contradicts the reference to maternity leave. It was factually inaccurate in material respects.”
Since the tribunal, which was held last May, Mr Burke – who had called the dismissal a “knee-jerk reaction – has been battling bowel cancer and has been unable to follow up the judge’s suggestions of taking further action.
Last night, he said the stress had been “unbelievable” and that he was sure it had added to his ill-health.
He added: “I have never received any kind of apology from the council – they just get away with ruining people’s lives.”
A spokesman from Aberdeenshire Council said: “We note the decision of the tribunal.”