Sacked lecturer who university refused to reinstate awarded £100K

Union accuses Huddersfield of ‘cold and calculated’ decision not to give Jonathan Duxbury his old job back

January 7, 2022
University of Huddersfield
Source: iStock
University of Huddersfield

A university has been ordered to pay a sacked lecturer more than £100,000 after it refused an employment tribunal’s order to reinstate him.

Jonathan Duxbury won an unfair dismissal case against the University of Huddersfield last year, with the tribunal ordering that he should get his job as a senior lecturer in accountancy back.

But the university refused to reinstate Mr Duxbury and at a final hearing was ordered to pay him nearly £108,000. The University and College Union accused Huddersfield of taking a “cold and calculated” decision not to allow Mr Duxbury to work to retirement, which would likely have allowed him to earn more than the tribunal had the power to award him.

At the heart of the case was Huddersfield’s policy insisting that all full-time permanent lecturers should have a PhD or study to obtain one, which was introduced in 2013.

Mr Duxbury enrolled for a PhD for the following year but told the university that the increased workload would be unmanageable and would damage his mental health.

Mr Duxbury – who does have professional accountancy qualifications and is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants – was told he still needed to continue with his doctorate, according to his lawyers. Then, after a number of disciplinary meetings, he was sacked.

In the employment tribunal ruling, a judge said that Huddersfield had been “wholly unreasonable” and had adopted a “wholly closed mind” to Mr Duxbury’s “reasonable expectation that his health would be properly considered and the disciplinary approach be abandoned”.

Max Beckmann, a regional support official with the UCU, said that Huddersfield had “blatantly ignored an employment tribunal order in the knowledge that the employment tribunal system has no teeth to hold employers to account for such unlawful and unreasonable behaviour”.

“The university should never have dismissed our member for refusing to comply with an unreasonable management instruction, and when the tribunal found in Jonathan’s favour, it should have done the right thing and reinstated him,” Mr Beckmann said.

“The fact the university chose not to allow Mr Duxbury to work to retirement, which would have likely cost more than the settlement awarded by the tribunal, says a great deal about the ethics of its leadership and how the institution treats its staff.”

Mr Duxbury, 57, said previously that forcing him to study for a PhD “made no sense” as students had always been happy with his teaching and he was nearing the end of his career.

Speaking after the latest ruling, Mr Duxbury said that he was “furious” that Huddersfield had refused to reinstate him.

“What I will get in the award goes nowhere near what I will lose in salary between now and when I would have retired. A cheque that the university will write off as a business expense is all that I am left with after they have caused me endless stress and far greater financial loss,” he said.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that about 80 per cent of full-time academic staff at Huddersfield had a PhD in 2019-20, a proportion that has climbed rapidly since the policy was introduced.

Times Higher Education has approached the university for comment.

Mr Beckmann said that the case “highlights the urgent need for employment tribunal reform to ensure that employers cannot undermine the authority of the employment tribunal and ride roughshod over the employment law rights of workers”.

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Reader's comments (3)

As far as I am aware Huddersfield have a law school and a business school. Surely they have plenty of experts in those schools who could have advised them that just because they can do something (refuse to comply fully with a legal ruling from a formal adjudicatory body) because of a bit of a legal loophole doesn’t mean that they should do that, unless they want to be compared in ethical terms and respect for the rule of law terms with the likes of back street used car dealers. The marketing and brand reputation experts in their business school could have told them that the financial savings made as a result of the above behaviour will be massively overshadowed by the reputational damage – not least among the ethical business community who do comply with decisions of courts and tribunals and who expect more from a university with charitable status and entrusted to influence young minds. Thank you Times Higher for shining this light on the University of Huddersfield.
What repugnant conduct. How universities' executives cannot see the damage they do, and the real cost that damage imposes, is beyond me. Anti-intellectual and shabby.
What's the betting that the HR person who imposed this doesn't have a PhD?