University of Huddersfield accountancy lecturer sacked for refusing to do a PhD wins his job back

A lecturer from Brighouse who was sacked by the University of Huddersfield for 'wholly unreasonable' demands has won his teaching role back.

Saturday, 21st August 2021, 7:00 am
University of Huddersfield

A lecturer from the University of Huddersfield who won an employment tribunal earlier this year, has been told that he can be reinstated to his old role.

Jonathan Duxbury, 57, won his Leeds tribunal in April after it was judged that he had been unfairly dismissed by the University of Huddersfield.

He won a payout after he was sacked unfairly for refusing demands to do a PhD.

At a hearing this week it has been ordered that he should return to his job rather than receive a fixed compensation pay out, which he feared would have left him 'significantly' out of pocket.

The judge ruled the University of Huddersfield had been 'wholly unreasonable' and had acted with a 'closed mind' in putting Mr Duxbury through 'demoralising' disciplinary action when he said he could not undertake the PhD.

Previously the Brighouse man began working for the university in July 2005 as a senior lecturer in the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.

While he did not hold a PhD, Mr Duxbury has a professional qualification in accountancy and is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

In July 2013, Mr Duxbury was informed that he would need a PhD to continue teaching at his level – despite his role never requiring one before.

He enrolled for a PhD the following year but informed his employer of concerns that the heavy workload would not be possible alongside his work commitments, and that it would have a negative impact on his mental health, as he had suffered from stress.

At the hearing this week the judge heard how Mr Duxbury's mental health deteriorated after he was 'repeatedly' urged to complete a time-consuming PhD course or lose his job – despite there being no justifiable reason for his employer’s actions.

After being sacked on 16 January 2020, by the university, a Leeds employment tribunal on April 29 2021 ruled he had been unfairly dismissed.

And at a hearing on Tuesday, July 27, this week a reinstatement order was granted.

Mr Duxbury, who was represented by his union UCU, and Thompsons Solicitors, said: "The whole purpose of this claim was not to do with compensation – it was to go back to doing a job I love.

"The tribunal agreed I had done nothing wrong and had acted with integrity, so I am delighted to see that this has been echoed in their decision.

“I’d like to personally thank my union and Thompsons Solicitors for their help, as well as the support I have had from various former colleagues and students in the department. I cannot stress how much they have helped me through such a tough period of my career.”

Max Beckmann, a UCU regional support official, added: "This is an excellent result and the University of Huddersfield now needs to comply with the tribunal’s remedy judgment and allow Mr Duxbury to resume his role.

"But we should never have had to spend the past seven years dragging the University of Huddersfield through the legal system.

"Had the university meaningfully engaged with our concerns back in 2014, we could have avoided this gruelling process, kept an outstanding senior lecturer in his job, and avoided unnecessary disruption to students. Huddersfield must not further sully its reputation by ignoring the tribunal’s reinstatement order."

Although a reinstatement order was granted, it is not legally enforceable for the University of Huddersfield and Iain Birrell, trade union law expert at Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Mr Duxbury, said that the university should be very wary of not following the tribunal’s direction.

He said: "Reinstatement orders are very rare so we’re pleased with the outcome of the hearing – but there is still a risk that the university will seek to find excuses to avoid offering him the job he never should have lost if they are determined to do so.

"If they don’t reinstate Jonathan they will be in breach of the order and liable to pay him a fixed compensation amount alongside an additional six to 12 months’ pay. In addition, their poor faith can only go down badly with the rest of their staff who will wonder if they can be trusted.

"Sadly the additional compensation that could be awarded for refusing to reinstate is capped – and that cap was itself cut by the coalition government – which means the fixed amount of money he will get will not come close to covering what he would earn if he were allowed to continue working at the university as he wants and as the Tribunal has ordered.

"Even though there is no way to legally enforce reinstatement we hope that the university will recognise the Tribunal’s clear condemnation of their actions and not go down the road of throwing yet more money away - but instead do the right thing and welcome back a colleague who is keen to teach.”

The University of Huddersfield has been approached for comment.

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