A teacher assistant has won more than 7,000 after being unfairly fired for embracing a student with special needs.
Sabrina Wilmot was accused of “abusing her position of faith” by embracing the child to calm him down.
An employment tribunal has heard that he was later “tortured” for allegedly kissing a nursery-age student.
Although he “strongly denied” the allegations, he was eventually dismissed for “grave wrongdoing and serious misconduct.”
But her former employer, Pioneer Learning Trust, has now been ordered to pay Mrs. Wilmot £ 7,257.18 in damages after she won an unjust dismissal lawsuit.
The tribunal in Watford, Harts, heard that Mrs. Wilmot began working as a first-level teaching assistant at Whitefield Primary Academy in Luton in January 2016.
In October 2019 she was assigned to a child in the school nursery who had the special needs of a teacher assistant.
In January 2020, as a result of the student’s behavior, the nursery teachers asked him to move to a separate ‘nest’ room from the main room for supervision.
Mrs. Wilmot was asked to continue working with the baby at Nest.
The tribunal heard that, two days later, Mrs. Wilmot had asked the child to do something, and she had “reacted badly” to the request.
He said he was concerned that he was going to physically harm himself and then ‘put his arms around him to prevent a physical explosion from interfering before a hug started’.
The following Monday, a meeting was called after local authorities’ security officials expressed concern about the embrace.
Mrs Wilmot was told that she had been accused of “misbehaving with the child by hugging and kissing him”.
He “firmly and emphatically denied” that he had kissed the baby but admitted to hugging him, adding that he had hugged the baby “to calm him down because he was really upset”.
The tribunal heard that Mrs Wilmot was ‘very upset’ at the kissing allegations because it could have ‘very serious effects’.
As a result, his GP stopped working with intense pressure.
In February 2020, another teacher told assistant bosses that he had seen Mrs. Wilmot sitting on his knees, put on the student’s coat, talked to him, lifted his coat, and gave him a kiss on the right cheek.
The witness stated that he did not see anything else, adding that Mrs. Wilmot was “very sensitive” and that it was normal for her to “hug” the baby.
A disciplinary hearing was held in July 2020 to hear allegations of gross misconduct against Zum, but the kissing allegations against Mrs. Wilomot were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
However, he was still fired.
Confirming his dismissal, the letter said that “it is the responsibility of all employees to ensure that they do not abuse or misuse their position of trust and extend the relationship beyond being considered professional and acceptable.”
But employment judge Bellamy Ford ruled that the embrace was not a gross misconduct.
He said: “I admit that it is possible [Mrs Willmott] A hug and inviting the child for that should have been warned [she] Be aware of the risks associated with doing this.
“I do not acknowledge that embracing will always be gross misconduct … Accordingly, I have found it. [Mrs Willmott] Unjustly dismissed. “