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Chambers & Partners
17/01/2020

Victoria Webb successful in the EAT in Q v Secretary of State for Justice

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Victoria Webb has been successful in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, in a case concerning the extent to which a state sector employer can make matters in an employee’s private life a disciplinary matter, before it is found to infringe the employee’s human rights.

In Q v Secretary of State for Justice, UKEAT/0120/19/JOJ, Victoria represented the Respondent. The Claimant was employed in the Probation Service. Her daughter was placed on a child protection register, in circumstances where the Social Services considered (though she vehemently denied the allegation) that she presented a risk to her daughter. She was dismissed for deliberately failing to report the matter fully and promptly to the Respondent in circumstances where she was aware, following a previous episode and warning, that she was required to do so.

The main argument on appeal concerned the approach a Tribunal should take to privacy rights under the Human Rights Act 1998. The Claimant argued that the Tribunal had failed to conduct the required structured analysis of whether the dismissal was a proportionate interference in the Claimant’s Article 8 right to respect for her private and family life. The Claimant argued that the Tribunal should have found the Probation Services’ actions in dismissing the Claimant were disproportionate.

In this case the Claimant’s appeal failed, because the degree of interference in the Claimant’s private life (what information the employer sought) was specific, concerning the Claimant’s own personal involvement with Social Services. The Claimant had previously been given a warning, and demoted, for a similar matter. Given the nature of the Probation Services’ work and their statutory relationship with Social Services, the employer’s actions could be justified in this case.

The decision provides a fresh look at the extent to which a public sector employee’s private life can be a matter of concern for their employer, and when a dismissal can be justified when an employee refuses to divulge such information.

To view the judgment, please click here.

Victoria was instructed by the Government Legal Department.

employment; human rights; respondent; tribunal, appeal

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