Tribunal rules sacking of professor unfair dismissal

For ten series, Channel 4’s psychologist for their hit show Big Brother was Professor Geoff Beattie from the University of Manchester. While the Professor was employed by Channel 4 alongside his employment at the university, the latter did encourage its academic staff to pursue work outside the university to broaden their interest and therefore their offering to current students.

Not only were employers at the University of Manchester aware of Professor Beattie’s role in the show Big Brother, they actively endorsed it and used his TV personality status as a marketing tool to attract prospective students.

However, in 2012 the university disciplined the Professor ‘for “failing to disclose the full extent of his outside work, with some going beyond broadcasting related activities and into private consultancy”‘, reports the BBC.

Following his dismissal, Professor Beattie sought justice at an employment tribunal and won. The university told the tribunal that the Professor failed to inform them of how many of the university’s resources he had used to complete his work for external bodies. In particular, the university were concerned with how much time many of the research assistants employed by the university were spending on the Professor’s external work pursuits.

While the tribunal acknowledged the University of Manchester’s arguments, they held that the Professor’s dismissal was unfair since this was his first disciplining. The university had failed to give the Professor an opportunity to make right, choosing to fire him immediately instead.

Furthermore, the tribunal observed that the Professor ‘” had not acted dishonestly or deliberately breached the policies, and his long service and excellent record with the university should have been given greater weight’”, reports the BBC.

Following the ruling, the University of Manchester are said to be considering their position.

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