Scottish Teacher Wins £60,000 After Unfair Dismissal for Refusing Transfer Due to Menopause Symptoms

In Mrs Allison Shearer v South Lanarkshire Council, a tribunal ruled the teacher was unfairly dismissed, awarding her £60,000. This came after she refused to transfer to another school for fear that it would worsen her menopause symptoms. Below, we explore what happened in the case and examine the employment tribunal’s judgment.

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The Facts in Mrs Allison Shearer v South Lanarkshire Council


Mrs Allison Shearer (“The Claimant”) began working for South Lanarkshire Council (“The Respondent”) in April 1996. This came after she was transferred from its predecessor, Strathclyde Regional Council, where she had been employed as a children’s rights worker since November 1991.

In 2010, the claimant was redeployed after requesting a return to teaching. She subsequently became an English and support teacher at Clydesdale Secondary Support Base from 2015 until July 2022.

During a meeting on 31 May 2022, the claimant objected to headteacher Neil Govan’s proposal to supervise a pupil’s vaping. She believed it posed injury risks due to the student’s asthma and disagreed with underage vaping as an anxiety relief. Despite Mr Govan acknowledging that he couldn’t force staff to supervise the pupil, the claimant felt he was frustrated with her stance.

Claimant Fears Transfer Would Worsen Her Menopause Symptoms

On 17 June, Mr Govan informed the claimant that he would be moving her to Kear Secondary School in August. He explained the school required an English teacher, to which she explained she would consider the move over the weekend.

The claimant was apprehensive, as she believed the school suffered from frequent violence, leading to staff injuries, mismanagement and a tendency to blame teachers for such incidents. During this period, she was on prescription medication for high blood pressure, anxiety, low mood and menopause symptoms. The prospect of the move caused her to experience nightmares and only worsened her symptoms.

As such, on 21 June, she emailed Mr Govan, outlining why the move should be reconsidered, including concerns about her health. Yet, Mr Govan’s response largely ignored her concerns. He denied the move being connected with the vaping incident and insisted her skills were “best utilised at Kear School”.

In desperation, the claimant contacted her line manager, Stewart Miller, two days later. She was still worried that the move would worsen her menopause symptoms and wanted to discuss her employment options.

The claimant believed she could work at any of the three other secondary support bases in Cathkin, Hamilton, or East Kilbride. Additionally, she felt capable of contributing to other areas, including providing behaviour support in any of the authority’s secondary schools. Unfortunately, Mr Miller didn’t respond, and when the claimant requested a return to Clydesdale Support Base, Mr Govan refused.

A Grievance is Raised

Following further refusals from the respondent to reconsider their decision, the claimant began sick leave on 16 August. She submitted a grievance on 15 November, and its outcome was relayed to the claimant in January 2023. However, it wasn’t the news she had hoped for.

Although the respondent acknowledged the claimant’s worsening menopause symptoms, they believed that there were “sound business reasons” for their request. As Mr Govan has previously explained, Kear School required an English teacher, and they felt she was the best fit. As one might have guessed, the claimant wasn’t happy with this decision, and she appealed it on 26 January, but this was rejected just two months later.

Whilst the claimant awaited the outcome of the final stage of her grievance, she undertook non-teaching tasks from her home. However, when this was also dismissed on 10 May, she was required to report to Kear Secondary School. Ultimately, this didn’t occur, as the claimant recommenced sick leave from 15 May.

Teacher Claims Disability Discrimination Linked to Menopause Symptoms

On 18 September, the claimant attended a capability hearing, during which the respondent offered her two roles. They explained that she had until 22 September to decide which role she would undertake; otherwise, her employment would be terminated. 

The claimant believed this was “an unreasonable and unfair ultimatum” and rejected both roles. She explained that the first offered little stability, which would exacerbate her menopause symptoms, and that she lacked the experience for the other.

As a result, the claimant was informed of her dismissal on 26 September, effective four days prior. The claimant appealed this decision, but this, too, proved unsuccessful. Consequently, she brought claims of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination to an employment tribunal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The employment tribunal quickly established the claimant was disabled, as per the Equality Act 2010, due to her menopause symptoms. Consequently, they held that it would’ve been reasonable to allow her to remain in her current position. Evidence showed that her worsening symptoms were directly caused by the prospect of moving to Kear Secondary School, a situation that could’ve been prevented by reversing the decision.

Furthermore, they felt it was entirely possible for the respondent to find an alternative English teacher for Kear Secondary School. For context, they highlighted the 100-150 English teachers the respondent employed across various schools, totalling over 3,000 teachers. With this in mind, they believed it reasonable that the respondent could’ve found a replacement from within this large pool.

Finally, they ruled the claimant’s dismissal “fell outside the range of responses”. They reasoned that it resulted from the respondent’s insistence on her moving to Kear Secondary School. However, no reasonable employer would’ve forced the claimant to move, especially given the proposal’s effects on her health.

Again, they reiterated that the claimant could have remained in her current position while the respondent found an alternative replacement. Therefore, the tribunal concluded that the claimant had faced unfair dismissal and disability discrimination related to her menopause symptoms and the respondent’s failure to make reasonable adjustments.

As a result, the tribunal awarded her £61,074.55. This comprised a basic award, compensatory award and damages for loss of earnings.

Claim with Redmans

If you have faced discrimination or dismissal arising from your menopause symptoms, contact Redmans Solicitors now. We are specialist employment lawyers who can examine your case and provide advice on how you could proceed.

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