Terence contacted our helpline when he needed some advice on behalf of himself and his partner.
Following his conviction, Terence had been placed on the sex offenders register. As part of his notification requirements, he was required to notify the public protection officer at his local police station of any new relationships.
Shortly after being introduced to Lauren through friends, Terence disclosed his conviction to her. He told us that he was delighted that his disclosure appeared to make no difference to her and she agreed to go with him to the local police station in order that they could meet the public protection officer together.
Terence explained that although the police officer asked a number of intrusive questions, on the whole, he was pleased that Terence had been totally honest with Lauren about his past. Terence told us that as they were finishing the meeting, the police officer asked Lauren if she had a job and she mentioned that she worked as a receptionist at a local school. This didn’t appear to give the police officer any cause for concern.
However, when Lauren arrived at work the following day she was asked to immediately go and see her line manager. He told her that he’d received a call from the local police station informing him that Lauren was in a relationship with ‘somebody on the sex offenders register’. The school believed that as a result of new ‘disqualification by association’ regulations, Lauren had a duty to inform the school of this new relationship and had acted dishonestly in not disclosing it to them. She was suspended until a full investigation had been undertaken.
Terence told us how surprised he was that the police officer hadn’t told them at the meeting that he would be contacting Lauren’s employers. If he had, Lauren would have had the opportunity to speak with her line manager and explain the situation to him. Neither Terence nor Lauren had heard of ‘disqualification by association’ and Terence asked whether we could give him any information about it.
We explained to Terence that as Lauren was not employed as a teacher at the school, and as the couple did not live together, then the ‘disqualification by association’ regulations were not applicable to her. We were able to provide Terence with links to the relevant legislation and offered to assist Lauren with any appeal to the school.
The local authority’s designated officer started his investigation into the case and we assisted Lauren in writing a letter to him which set out the reasons why she did not believe that legally she had to disclose her relationship with Terence to the school and that as she did not work as a teacher and did not currently live with Terence she could not be disqualified by association. As the investigation continued, Lauren became increasingly anxious about the time it was taking and what impact this investigation might have on her ability to secure work in the future.
We kept in regular contact with Terence and Lauren and after several months Lauren asked whether we could help her to write a letter to the school setting out her intention to resign from her job if the school would give her an assurance that the investigation by the local authority was dropped and no record of it would be added to her employment history. The school agreed to these terms.
Lauren is currently looking for work and worries that the police will choose to disclose her relationship with Terence to a new employer. She has been invited to attend several interviews but has been asked “Why did you leave your previous job?”. This flags up the issue with Terence and the SOR and her applications have not been taken any further.
We have provided Terence and Lauren with details of a solicitor who is currently in the process of advising them of any legal options that may be available to them.
This case highlights how new legislation can often provoke knee jerk reactions from employers who will take a course of action without fully considering whether legislation applies in every situation.
It’s likely that after fully investigating the case, the Local Authority Designated Officer would have found in Lauren’s favour. However, for some people, the stress of going through these types of investigations is too much and they choose to walk away instead.
- Childcare Disqualification Regulations – primary school teachers, nursery staff and others – Disqualified by association
Notes about this case study
This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline and our policy work on scrapping the disqualification by association regulations.
Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.