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Will a disciplinary be disclosed in reference if linked to mental health

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Danicap, Mar 15, 2019.

  1. Danicap

    Danicap New commenter

    My partner was offered a settlement agreement and the opportunity to resign after overwork and poor management led to a bipolar episode (the school were aware of the diagnosis but had made no reasonable adjustments to their workload).

    Unfortunately, as the symptoms were manic there were some complaints from pupils and a disciplinary was held. Partner was offered opportunity to resign after disciplinary with the subtext that they would be fired if they chose not to accept the offer. Subsequent Safeguarding investigation was proven to be unsubstantiated.

    They have been out of teaching now for around 8 months having suffered from a severe episode of anxiety and depression as a consequence of their experience at the school.

    Thinking about future job applications, the concern is that any new employer may ask about disciplinary procedures on application form, thus rendering partners chances of progressing the application unlikely.

    Can the previous school confirm that they took place in light of the fact that they are then inadvertently disclosing the mental health diagnosis of the ex employee? Surely any new employer will ask what the disciplinary was for and in answering, partner will have to disclose mental health?

    It’s such a mine field!

    I should add that partner had been teaching for 8 years with an unblemished record before Bi Polar diagnosis and subsequent dismissal.
  2. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Let's say the disciplinary was for swearing at students or brandishing a ruler in a threatening fashion. Just an example. Purely hypothetical.

    Well, I'd say it would have to be disclosed if requested. If the employer believed they had grounds for a dismissal? But the gentleman was awarded a settlement agreement for the sake of a speedy conclusion? Hmmm. I take it there was no union involvement or this subject would have been considered thoroughly before signing and an agreement would have been reached about what might be stated in the event of references being sought.
    Orchid2457 likes this.
  3. Danicap

    Danicap New commenter

    No union. It was a private school and partner had been advised many years ago that the unions have no jurisdiction over private schools. They are a law unto themselves.

    We did get a solicitor involved to help draw up a generic reference (at that point there was no actual future employer requesting one). They do not make reference to a disciplinary and state that they would recommend partner as a teacher. It’s just if that specific question comes up in the initial application. I have the feeling it won’t matter what the back story is, they will be considered a risk and are unlikely to be asked for interview. I’m hoping I’m wrong.
  4. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    A disciplinary will have to be disclosed if an application or reference requests it. If your partner did not get an agreed reference, it could be very difficult.

    I remember your original thread. Bi Polar may be covered under the Disability Discrimination Act, but your partner will have to declare it if he applies for other jobs. The school has a duty of care to him as an employee- but also the students. If he doesn't declare it, and it's not properly medically managed, the result could be disastrous.
  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Exactly @CWadd

    This gentleman will have to declare his medical condition anyway for reasonable adjustments to be made so any new employer will have to know from the outset. He'd have to declare it at the application stage.
    baitranger, agathamorse and CWadd like this.
  6. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    I'm just going to add something else.

    If he doesn't declare it - and if it's a diagnosed condition he needs to - and then has an episode of hypomania and the truth outs, he could be sacked for providing a misleading application. If your partner is genuinely unwilling/afraid to disclose his condition, he may need to explore options other than teaching.
  7. Danicap

    Danicap New commenter

    It’s not whether he disclosed his condition. It’s when. The worry is that disclosing it at the early stages of application will result in being passed over for the job. If he has a chance to interview and make an impression he is much more likely to be seen as the engaged, dynamic and inspirational teacher he is, at which point he can discuss his requirements. Just worried that his bipolar will mean he never gets the chance. Its not true that a teacher with bipolar is fundamentally a risk. They just need an enlightened and inclusive approach from management which is difficult to find.
    Thank you for taking the time to respond. Much appreciated.
  8. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I understand that he doesn't want people to know private info, but in case he's also worrying about being judged and discriminated against, I don't think he needs to worry - there are enlightened schools out there (it's also illegal to discriminate). A colleague at my previous school was very open about her mental health issues, and was praised for it, in fact another school tried to headhunt her due to her work promoting student mental health.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    "It's not true a teacher with bipolar is a risk. They need an enlightened and inclusive approach from management"

    But when someone is in that hypomania state, their risk judgement and impulse control is lost. That's a risk. Especially with safeguarding.

    If your partner applies and discloses, he is entitled to protection under the Disability Discrimination Act. But he needs to make it clear what his needs are and follow the school's personnel procedures so they can make reasonable adjustments.

    In your previous thread, you stated he was involved in many extra curricular activities. Combining that with a heavy teaching load is a recipe for potential disaster.
    agathamorse and grumpydogwoman like this.
  10. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Just seen your post to @grumpydogwoman .

    I'm genuinely concerned that someone gave your partner such poor advice about Union involvement. Having worked in the private sector and been a member of NASUWT throughout, you can be a member of a Union in a private school. If your partner does get another teaching post, he needs to join a Union straight away. Private schools can set their own pay scales and terms - but employment law, especially regarding health matters, applies to them as it does all other schools.
  11. Lalad

    Lalad Star commenter

    You say your partner had been teaching for 8 years before diagnosis and subsequent dismissal, and suggest the school was aware of the diagnosis before the manic episode took place eight months ago. There is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding surrounding bipolar and I suspect the disciplinary was based on the behaviour rather than on what might have caused it.

    One of my sons has bipolar. He's not a teacher but was arrested and sectioned following a psychotic episode. When he applied for another job, he disclosed his medical history but also the fact that he was on medication and stable. His prospective employers were really supportive, asking what measures they could put in place to help - and gave him the job.

    I suspect your partner is still in the early stages of managing his bipolar but it isn't correct to say that any teacher with bipolar is fundamentally a risk. Bipolar can be managed. In a previous school, I worked with a teacher who was dynamic and creative during her manic episodes but would sometimes be absent for brief periods when depressed. She was open about her condition and respected and supported by the school, who had taken her on in full knowledge of her condition.

    If your partner can show potential employers that he is able to manage his condition, acknowledge how it impacts on his work pattern, and take action to minimise any negative effects, he should have a good chance of securing another teaching position.
  12. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I'm sorry but you can't have it both ways.

    How can reasonable adjustments be made if the employer doesn't know?

    There is very likely to be a question on the form (the very earliest stage of the application process) about conditions covered by the DDA. Surely he doesn't plan to say at this point that he's NOT got such a condition! He has! Bipolar is covered by the DDA. He'd be lying. Please tell me that's not the plan.

    Lie about the bipolar, secure an interview, do a blindingly brilliant lesson/interview, be offered the job and then ..... "oh, yes, and then there's my bipolar." No!

    He has to be honest.
  13. Lalad

    Lalad Star commenter

    If I were him, I'd go further and disclose from the outset that there was a disciplinary related to a bipolar diagnosis but that the condition is now being properly managed (assuming it is).

    As @grumpydogwoman has said, honesty is the best policy here.
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    The disciplinary would have to be disclosed, if they ask. He's more likely to be passed over for the job because of the disciplinary, so it might be better to be able to give the explanation.

    I don't know what union advice would be, but I wonder if the best thing is to write a separate letter detailing his disability and the circumstances of the disciplinary, and mark that as confidential to the head. That then doesn't have to be shared with the rest of the interview panel, so that they are not influenced by it. The head ought to be aware of disability discrimination legislation, and the best way to make sure they don't fall foul of it would be to minimise who is aware of your disability.
  15. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    The law is clear you do NOT have to disclose any disabilities covered under the EA2010, though it maybe in your interests to do so should RA be required.

    There is no requirement to disclose a characteristic covered under the EA2010 at any point in the recruitment process.

    The only time you need to disclose during the recruitment process is when you require RA"s to be put in place in order to take part in the process.

    I repeat you do NOT need to disclose (except under VERY rare circumstances) , the law is crystal clear on this.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
    blueskydreaming likes this.
  16. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    On the face of it your partner appears to have been discriminated against and this should be a shining example of why everyone needs to be in a union.

    Was the solicitor only involved in the SA? Or did they have a chance to take a view on the entire situation?
  17. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter


    The law is written in a way to minimise the chance of discrimination, so you do not need to disclose.

    Or do you genuinely think the applicant would have an equal chance to get to the point of being offered the job or even getting to the interview stage if they disclosed first?
  18. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I understand what you're saying about there not being an obligation to disclose (I said it myself on another thread ages ago and was shouted at), BUT why is there an assumption that the applicant would be discriminated against? Anyone with an awareness of mental health issues would not be put off employing them (unless they actually had put children in danger) - why assume a Head has no awareness? A high percentage of the population is affected by ill mental health, and a high percentage of teachers do, so chances are a Head would have a good awareness.
  19. baitranger

    baitranger Established commenter

    You say the school were aware of his condition but made no reasonable adjustments. This is what the government guidance tells us:
    "3.2 Dealing with performance issues
    All employees, whether or not they are disabled, have changes in their performance levels. These could be problems with attendance, behaviour or conduct.

    Before starting action to deal with poor performance, you must make reasonable adjustments to allow a disabled employee to improve their performance. If you don’t, they could take you to an employment tribunal."
    I think it may be too late for a tribunal or other legal action.but you need good specialised advice about this.
    Did you say what the result of the disciplinary was? Was he given a formal warning?
  20. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Unions have no jurisdiction anywhere, but they can stand up for the rights of staff. In particular, you are entitled to be accompanied at a disciplinary meeting. There are also rules concerning union recognition. I can't recall the exact details, but if enough staff are members of a union, they can get it recognised. Private schools are not a law unto themselves; they have to respect the law the same as everybody else.

    Unfortunately, I can't see why the disciplinary would not be mentioned; it might even become illegal to mention why it happened. But you would need an expert to confirm or deny this.

    I seem to recall reading this only needs to be done after appointment.

    As a final note, all teachers should be in a union, even if the school does not recognise one. Unions can still provide advice and support.
    agathamorse likes this.

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