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Private Schools Are More Vulnerable To Bad Outcomes in Tribunal

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

As was recently picked up in the press the private school, Tonbridge in Kent has been been sued and lost in an Employment Tribunal for sexual discrimination. After the hearing, the Claimant, Miss Hannah Miller was able to reach an undisclosed agreement with the school.

This is all very well for the Claimant but the reality is the School has not only lost the case and it has received negative publicity which judging by some of the press coverage casts the students in a poor light as well.

It all plays to the stereotype of an arrogant private sector.(By the way I am privately educated so I do not have a chip on my shoulder, I hope!)

In my negotiations with employment cases with both state and private schools, there are some contrasting attitudes.

I wish to flag up that these points are very generalised but they are built up on years of experience so they may have some merit.

State negotiators (and their lawyers) tend to be more polite though can be slow in the way that they negotiate. They have a financial bottom line and that is that and they will fight the case come what may if that is breached. There is a lack of flexibility but if a deal is to be done, it will happen. I would say they fight fairly though due to budget issues lack flexibility.

My experience of the private sector is they and their lawyers tend to be more aggressive in protecting their clients position. Too aggressive sometimes because some of the tactics I have come across have been close to the wire.

In addition, I have seen a higher level of arrogance within human resources departments of private schools.

However, there is more flair in the way they negotiate compared to the public sector but they can be their clients worst enemy as they can inflame their opponents. That is a very damaging negotiation ploy and one that feeds the opposing employee, generating anger and determination.   

I have never dealt with Tonbridge School on a professional basis but the striking thing about the Miller/Tonbridge case is the inability to settle this case. It may be the Claimant was totally unrealistic in her financial expectations prior to the hearing but the key thing is the Respondent lost and had its dirty laundry aired. 

And no matter how you dress it up, that is a failure and not easily forgivable. Often it is the interplay between the schools' governing structure/human resources department and the instructed lawyers which causes losses like this. Avoidable but not uncommon.