Higgs v Farmor's School
Employment Appeal Tribunal - Appeal granted 16 June 2023
Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash
In 2019, primary school assistant, Kristie Higgs, then 43, was dismissed for gross misconduct by Farmor's School in Fairford, Gloucestershire.
Higgs had shared and commented on posts on her personal Facebook in 2018 which raised concerns about LGBTQ relationship education at her son's Church of England primary school.
After one anonymous complaint, the academy dismissed her for reasons including "illegal discrimination", "serious inappropriate use of social media" and "online comments that could bring the school into disrepute and damage the reputation of the school".
Higgs took Farmor’s School to Employment Tribunal in 2020, where Employment Judge Derek Reed ruled the dismissal was lawful, that it wasn't related to Higgs' Christian beliefs and, "was the result of a genuine belief on the part of the school that she had committed gross misconduct". This page covers Higgs’ appeal of that decision.
In a preliminary hearing in June 2022, Mrs Higgs’ lawyers challenged the impartiality of a tribunal lay member, Edward Lord OBE, and his suitability to hear the appeal. Lord had made a series of public statements which included that individuals should be prohibited from making comments or statements regarding LGBT ideology, especially transgenderism. The Honourable Mrs Justice Eady DBE, President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, heard the application and stated Lord's involvement ‘could not exclude the possibility of bias’ and granted the request for his recusal.
In March 2023, an application for a second recusal of a panel lay member was made. The appellant requested recusal of lay member Andrew Morris and this was granted by the Judge on the morning of the EAT hearing itself (16th March 2023). Reflecting on the parties input the Judge decided to proceed to hear the appeal without any panel members. Here is a short explainer of both recusal decisions in the Higgs v Farmor's School case by @legalfeminist and Mrs Justice Eady’s second recusal decision can be read here.
Higgs prevailed in her appeal. The Employment Tribunal decision that deemed her dismissal was lawful has been overturned. The appeal judgment can be read here.
The case will now go back down to the Employment Tribunal to be reheard.
Live Tweeting Sessions
Although scheduled for two days, the appeal was heard in one day on March 16th 2023 before The Honourable Mrs Justice Eady DBE, President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
16th March morning - preliminary hearing regarding recusal of Panel lay member. Recusal granted. Submissions put forward by Richard O'Dair, barrister for Appellant Kristie Higgs
16th March afternoon - submissions put forward by Richard O’Dair, barrister for Appellant Kirstie Higgs and by Debbie Grennon, barrister for Farmor’s School. Remote access was lost from approximately 4pm.
AB or ROD: Apellant Barrister, Richard O'Dair, for Kristie Higgs
RB or DG: Respondent Barrister, Debbie Grennon, for Farmor's School
J - Judge, Mrs Justice Eady, President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal
P: Member of tribunal's panel
A of KH: Appellant, Kristie Higgs
R or FS: Respondent, Farmor's School
R2: Archbishops' Council of Church of England (intervenor)
ET - Employment tribunal
EAT - Employment Appeal Tribunal
TG - Transgender
RSE - Relationship & Sexuality Education
EA: Equality Act 2010
PC: Protected Characteristic
CofE: Church of England
Here are links to a selection of relevant press coverage about this case. These links are included without comment and are not endorsed by Tribunal Tweets. This is a sample of coverage only, with most recent first - it is not comprehensive. Please DM our main Twitter account to submit coverage from an established news outlet. Any paywalled article must be archived.
28 Jan 2024
16th June 2023
Personnel Today - Kristie Higgs religious discrimination case to be reheard by tribunal
21st March 2023
20th March 2023
16 March 2023
Christian Concern - Kristie Higgs: Appeal to proceed ‘judge alone’ after double recusal
The Independent - Second panel member recused from hearing Christian’s sacking appeal
Express and Star - Second panel member recused from hearing Christian’s sacking appeal
15 March 2023
Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard - Christian school worker appeals against sacking over Facebook posts
14 March 2023
The Independent - Christian school worker appeals sacking over Facebook posts
Evening Standard - Christian school worker appeals sacking over Facebook posts
(Article featured in: NewsChain, Chester Standard, Keighley News, Ledbury Reporter, Andover Advertiser, Wiltshire Tumes, Guernsey Press, Bicester Advertiser, Shropshire Star, NWE Mail, Herald Series, Penarth Times, Inverness Courier, Hillingdon Times, Norwich Evening News, Surrey Comet, MSM, AOL, Daily Echo, Echo News, Gazette and Herald, Wrexham Leader, Alloa Advertiser, The York Press, Slough Observer, Swindon Advertiser, Irish News, Northern Times, Ross-shire Journal, Strathspey Herald, Watford Observer, Salisbury Journal, Oxford Mail, Grampian Online, Romford Recorder, The Argus, Barry and District News, News and Star, Reading Chronicle, St Albens and Harpenden Review, Somerset County Gazette, Clacton and Frinton Gazette, Sidmouth Herald, Warrington Guardian, Runcorn and Ridnes World, Redhill and Reigate Life, South West Argus, UK Daily News, Central Fife Times, The The Frewshire Gazette, AOL, Diss Mercury
5 July 2022
19 June 2022
18 June 2022
4 April 2022
Evangelical Times - Christian school worker case to be heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal
25 Feb 2022
Hull Daily Mail - Christian school worker to appeal after losing employment tribunal
15 July 2021
9 Oct 2020
7 Oct 2020
BBC Gloucestershire - Christian school worker loses tribunal over LGBT Facebook posts sacking
24 Sept 2020
23 Sept 2020
22 Sept 2020
21 Sept 2020
Shropshire Star - School worker speaks of shock at dismissal over Facebook posts