'Class act' wins claim over US

By Leon Symons, December 22, 2009

A former senior educator has won his claim for unfair dismissal against the United Synagogue.

Jeffrey Leader, former director of education of the US’s Agency for Jewish Education and an employee for more than 20 years, was one of six people made redundant there as part of a cost cutting exercise that saw 17 people shed from the US. He brought the case because he claimed the redundancy process was unfair and he was given insufficient time to consult about alternative employment.

Originally Mr Leader’s statement of claim was for £30,721 for loss of earnings. The tribunal decided to award him £1,784.

Mr Leader said: “The principle of fair play is important to me. Though I might have been more secure financially, I would have always regretted not having sought moral in addition to legal redress.

“I never complained about my redundancy but only about the unprofessional way it was carried out. I believe that any Jewish organisation claiming to be underpinned by Jewish values should act according to them. Any vision (the US) might have had for the community’s spiritual enrichment appears to have been sacrificed upon an altar of financial priorities.”

The redundancy process was unfair

Mr Leader said the organisation’s attitude was illustrated when Samuel Nicholls, counsel for the US, said at the end of the hearing that he had been instructed to seek costs even though the US had lost.

The tribunal in Watford was told that the redundancy programme was instigated by US chief executive Jeremy Jacobs who had decided with its trustees that formal education was not part of its core business.

The tribunal heard Mr Leader, 62, described as a “class act” and a model employee. He had worked with government agencies bringing in “millions of pounds” to help train teachers for Jewish schools.

Though the US denied it acted unprofessionally both its witnesses, human resources director Melanie Pearl and Simon Goulden, the AJE’s former chief executive who was also made redundant, conceded they were on holiday when they were meant to talk to him about the redundancy. They admitted that they did not contact Mr Leader and did not ask whether he was interested in job vacancies.

It also emerged that the US had no redundancy policy. Mrs Pearl told the tribunal that she was in the process of writing one when the redundancy exercise was started by Mr Jacobs, who did not give evidence.

Mr Leader said he had one meeting with Mr Jacobs, who said he could put forward alternative employment proposals and the US would give him £1,000 to retrain. But he said that the ideas he produced were not considered and no money was forthcoming.

Last updated: 4:12pm, December 23 2009