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Former BPP employment law lecturer successfully sues for unfair dismissal

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Elizabeth Aylott wins on two counts; BPP launches appeal

A former BPP employment law lecturer has won an employment tribunal claim against the university.

Elizabeth Aylott successfully argued for constructive unfair dismissal at the Central London Employment Tribunal, which found that bosses had failed to reduce her workload despite her mental health struggles.

The judgment also criticised BPP bosses for “crass and insensitive” comments, including a remark that Aylott was “mad as a box of frogs”.

BPP successfully defended other aspects of the case. The university has acknowledged the tribunal’s findings but is appealing the decision.

Aylott, who joined BPP in 2009, was “highly regarded by her colleagues” and promoted to Student Learning Manager in 2015.

The tribunal found that “there was a ‘long hours’ culture amongst the management team” with work emails flying around at weekends and bank holidays. In the summer of 2018, Aylott was apparently working 55-60 hour weeks and cancelled her August holiday.

On top of the workload, Aylott had to cope with autistic spectrum order, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome and depression, as well as a deceased husband, sick dad and a son diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Things eventually got too much and by the autumn of 2018 Aylott was “not coping”.

After lengthy periods on sick leave, she left in April 2019 and sued BPP for constructive unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

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Her case for discrimination stated that she wasn’t offered more than the standard 15 days of sick pay or a phased return to work after being off sick. Colleagues had also referred to her as “mad as a box of frogs, but a good worker” and told her that someone of her age and experience should be able to manage their workload.

The tribunal found that there was no disability discrimination under some aspects of the claim, despite the “crass and insensitive” comments, but upheld another branch of the claim relating to disability.

And it upheld her claim for constructive unfair dismissal, finding that a series of incidents added up to a “fundamental breach of trust and confidence”. These included the “box of frogs” comment, the sick pay issue and a “failure to reduce workload” to the point where Aylott felt obliged to cancel a week’s holiday.

The detailed judgment also criticised BPP’s “superficial” grievance process and its attempt to “steer the Claimant toward termination of her employment under a Settlement Agreement rather than make the Occupational Health advice referral that the Claimant had expressly requested”.

The delay in referring Aylott to occupational health led to a finding of discrimination arising from disability, under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.

A remedy hearing is due to take place next month to work out what compensation Aylott is entitled to.

A spokesperson for BPP told Legal Cheek:

“We are aware that several news outlets have published a story relating to a legal case between Elizabeth Aylott and BPP. Several of these articles contained inaccuracies and, contrary to what was reported, the tribunal found that no direct or indirect disability discrimination was committed by BPP. Whilst we respectfully acknowledge the findings of the tribunal, we have submitted an appeal, so cannot comment further on the case at this time.”

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