An “effective, conscientious and well respected” educational psychologist left the Government “due to the way he was managed and communicated with” after around two years of uncertainty during the largest ever shake-up of the civil service, the Employment Tribunal has found.
Former Director of Inclusion and Early Intervention Julian Radcliffe made a claim for compensation for constructive unfair dismissal earlier this year, saying the way in which he had been treated during the ‘OneGov’ restructure forced him to resign.
While the Employment Tribunal rejected the claim on the grounds that there was no breach of contract, the panel highlighted concerns about the way Mr Radcliffe was treated in its written judgment.
Published yesterday afternoon, it documents Mr Radcliffe’s increasing anxiety over the security of his role over and how his “trust… was eroded” over a period of two years.
After four years working in Government, Mr Radcliffe said by summer 2017 his role had morphed into one including many more responsibilities than he had originally taken on.
He was told that his role and job would soon be evaluated, but this did not happen. In a bid to move the process forward, Mr Radcliffe then prepared his own job description, but was told by HR that they were unable to process it “due to the restructuring of the top two tiers of the organization, and the impact this will have on the rest of the organization.”
Mr Radcliffe’s concerns about his role intensified when Government Chief Executive Charlie Parker announced in March 2018 that the public sector was “fat” on directors and would need slimming down during its restructuring process, which saw the creation of a new department for Mr Radcliffe to operate in: Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES).
Mr Radcliffe found the announcement “very worrying”, and noted that his role was an “anomaly” that wouldn’t easily fit into the new structure, as it spanned several departments.
He was told he would have the opportunity to take part in a consultation on the restructuring process, but this would not give him the opportunity to discuss his individual role.
Still awaiting clarity on his position in June 2019, Mr Radcliffe contacted the CYPES Director General Mark Rogers in an email that “flagged his concerns regarding areas of his role moving across to other directors and stating that he did not feel reassured in relation to his future with the [Government].”
“At the Hearing the Claimant explained that he sent this email as he had been living with uncertainty in his role for a prolonged period of time, over 18 months, and he found the uncertainty very difficult,” Tribunal Chair Hannah Westmacott noted in the judgment.
“[Mr Rogers] confirmed that he was aware of the Claimant’s growing concern regarding his role and said he tried to give a general sense of the importance of the Claimant’s responsibilities and to reassure him that these would not be devalued. However, he was unable to give any specific assurances. He also noted that he was not the Claimant’s direct line manager and it would primarily have been for his line manager to allay these concerns.”
The following month, Mr Radcliffe was told he had been removed from his role on the Safeguarding Partnership Board (SPB) without any notice during a meeting, causing him “significant embarrassment”.
The Government, in its defence, said that it felt there were “too many” CYPES staff on the board and that it had been the intention to stand down Mr Radcliffe – but that it was a “mistake” to have communicated it in this way.
Mr Rogers said that they were going to wait until the new Chair of the SPB was appointed in order to tell him, but that the message was never relayed to the Chair.
Mr Rogers also argued that senior staff are removed from boards from time to time and it is “part and parcel of the role flexing in response to changing business need”. He also said that shortly prior to the Claimant being stood down from the SPB, in spring 2019, he was asked to chair a new group.
But, for Mr Radcliffe, this “total surprise” was the “last straw”, and left his position “untenable.”
“This, together with the background of the other changes that had been made to his role and the fact that he did not receive any further assurance on his role, left him feeling he had no choice but to resign, which he did on 5 July 2019,” the Tribunal explained.
In its judgment, the Tribunal blasted the handling of the SPB announcement as “clumsy and not thought through”.
The Tribunal also agreed that Mr Radcliffe’s role was “already overdue for evaluation when the restructuring commenced”.
They also highlighted discrepancies in the treatment of Mr Radcliffe compared to other staff at his level who did have an opportunity to discuss their personal roles upon request.
“In addition, as I have concluded that changes were made to the Claimant’s role, it is clear that the restructuring process had already had an actual impact upon his role. While I understand the need to maintain a process that is fair to everyone, some exceptions were made and no explanation was given as to why the Claimant should not have been one of those exceptions.”
The Tribunal noted that it was “not surprising” that Mr Radcliffe grew “frustrated” that his calls for clarity were not answered, and that the Government “should” have assisted.
Concluding, the Panel Chair noted that, contrary to the Government’s arguments, Mr Radcliffe had not simply left to pursue a job with a higher salary.
“It appears that the Claimant was very passionate about his role and that he made a significant positive contribution to the Education and CYPES department; indeed despite all the changes to his role there was no question in relation to the Claimant’s work ethos or capability and SO commented that he would have liked to continue working with the Claimant.
“This case, therefore, deals with a very unfortunate situation. It appears that an effective, conscientious and well respected member of staff left due to the way in which he was managed and communicated with by his employer. In addition, I do not underestimate the impact that the Claimant’s resignation had upon him and his family.”
Express asked the Government for comments on the remarks in relation to its management, and received the following reply: “We welcome the careful and considered judgement by the Jersey Employment Tribunal in ruling against constructive unfair dismissal.
“We will not be making any further comments in order to respect the privacy and confidentiality of the former employee.”
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