Workplace rights: Trouble at the top

When can organisations hold their leaders accountable for failure?

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The issue is highlighted by the saga of Sharon Shoesmith, former head of children's services at Haringey Council, who is suing after being axed following the damning report into the Baby P case. Employers should proceed with caution. In clear cases of gross misconduct or negligence, senior executives can be dismissed without notice for breaching their 'fiduciary' duties as a director. But it may be hard to trace a disaster back to a personal failure, particularly in large organisations with complex reporting lines. It might be possible to establish negligence if an individual has direct contractual responsibility for a part of a business that has failed. Otherwise, dismissal might be justified by showing an irretrievable breakdown in their relationship with other senior managers, or by relying on reputational damage caused by a well-publicised debacle in which the executive is implicated. The key is to identify the reasons for dismissal precisely and follow a fair procedure.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail:

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Is it favouritism to protect an employee no one likes?

The Dominic Cummings affair shows the dangers of double standards, but it’s also true that...

Masterclass: Communicating in a crisis

In this video, Moneypenny CEO Joanna Swash and Hill+Knowlton Strategies UK CEO Simon Whitehead discuss...

Remote working forever? No thanks

EKM's CEO Antony Chesworth has had no problems working from home, but he has no...

5 rules for work-at-home productivity

And how to focus when focusing feels impossible.

Scandal management lessons from Dominic Cummings

The PR industry offers its take on the PM’s svengali.

Why emails cause conflict

And what you can do about it.