Lecturer wins £44k payout after five-year safety row with college group

Employment tribunal orders Capital City College Group to pay former lecturer who complained about workshop flooding

Employment tribunal orders Capital City College Group to pay former lecturer who complained about workshop flooding

Capital City College Group has been ordered to pay over £44,000 to an art and design lecturer after it failed to act on classroom safety complaints, including regular flooding, causing him to resign.

An employment tribunal judge found the college group had constructively dismissed Kevin Hope, a former art and design lecturer at City and Islington College in London, when it failed to address flooding concerns raised by Hope over the years and failed to deal with a grievance with a lab technician.

The judge acknowledged that the college made “strenuous and repeated efforts” to stop the leaks but had failed for “many years” to consider applying for capital funding for renovations.

He also said that only a “major” renovation of the “old and dilapidated” Centre for Business, Arts and Technology building could permanently stop the flooding.

“[The college] strove to work within its limited budget as a public sector organisation and it was only after many years of failed attempts that it could justify a capital bid for over £2 million (the funds necessary to renovate),” the judge said.

The college group has been awarded £2.4 million of capital funding to completely renovate the CBAT building including the provision of a new roof. The project is currently at tender stage awaiting quotes from contractors.

The former lecturer won his complaint of constructive dismissal – whereby he resigned because of his employer’s inaction around the flooding and his working relationship with the lab technician.

For a constructive dismissal case to succeed, there must be a “breach by the employer of an essential term, such as the implied term of trust and confidence, and the employee must resign in response to that breach,” according to the tribunal.

The college was ordered to pay £44,068.33 to Hope as a compensatory award including loss of earnings and a 15 per cent ACAS uplift.

‘Last straw’

The flooding in the CBAT building at the college’s Camden Road campus began in 2017.

The court heard the flooding was caused by problems with the roof, windows and gutters as well as a Japanese Knotweed from the next-door building, which had damaged the foundations causing water to come up through the floor.

From then on, Hope reported the leaks as well as various problems in one of his workshops to a lab technician, such as the lack of resources and personal protective equipment (PPE).

But in September 2020, Hope addressed the failure to procure the protective equipment face-to-face with the technician, and three days later, the technician lodged a formal grievance against Hope.

Hope then lodged his own complaint against the technician and continued to email HR for the next 10 months about the lack of progress with the complaints.

The court heard that a further episode of flooding in August 2021 was Hope’s last straw, causing him to resign just a few days later.

The judge ruled that the both the flooding and the relationship with the lab tech were each an effective cause of his resignation.

“It follows that the grievance failure, being so concerned with these, was an effective cause of his resignation,” the judge ruled.

“In this context, it is plausible that a further episode of flooding on 8/9 August 2021 could have confirmed to the claimant that nothing was ever going to improve, thus acting as the last straw,” they added.

A Capital City College Group spokesperson said: “It is unfortunate that while Mr Hope’s claim for unfair dismissal was dismissed, the judge did award some costs linked to constructive dismissal. The amount to be paid is yet to be confirmed.

“We regret that attempts to prevent this building flooding, caused by Japanese knotweed, were not successful until the college was able to secure a significant capital grant from the government to make the substantial investment required. We are pleased to say these capital works are now underway and will futureproof the building for all staff and students.”

Kevin Hope was contacted for comment.

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