The EAT has confirmed in O’Brien v London Borough Of Haringey that a teacher on a trip to Gambia during school holidays, as part of an initiative to forge links with overseas schools, was acting “in the course of her employment”.
In this particular case, in overturning the Tribunal’s decision, the EAT concluded that as the school’s head teacher agreed that Ms O’Brien could visit the Gambian school in her half-term holiday (and at her own expense – although she was given one day’s paid leave to travel to Gambia) to exchange materials and to establish links between a Gambian school and her school – the trip was “in the course of the her employment”.
This was vital in this case as in accordance with teacher’s terms and conditions a teacher who is absent with an illness contracted “in the course of their employment” is entitled to full pay.
Ms O’Brien became ill in 2009 following a visit to a school in Gambia. Her own school subsequently linked with the Gambian school. Once back in the UK, Mrs O’Brien became ill due to a virus due to contact with the children at the Gambian school. Mrs O’Brien claimed full pay for her period of illness.
The Tribunal found that the trip was not “in the course of her employment”. The EAT allowed the appeal – rejecting the tribunal’s findings that the trip was not part of Ms O’Brien’s normal duties.
This is an important decision for schools as the term “in the course of employment” also applies to the vicarious liability of employers for discriminatory acts of its employees and may also be relevant in terms of the jurisdiction of an employer to discipline its employees for acts done “in the course of their employment”.