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After four days at the Employment Tribunal, an employee with over sixteen years’ service at a Northern Ireland catering company has settled a disability discrimination case against her former employer for the sum of £40,000.
The employee joined the company in 2003 rising to the position of Head of Events in 2014. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in early 2016 and returned to work later that year following treatment. In 2017 the employee was diagnosed with lung cancer before gradually returning to work on a part-time basis in February 2019.
Return to work
Upon the employee’s return, no welfare nor return to work meeting took place. The employee found herself lacking the equipment necessary to fulfil her role. Namely, a mobile phone, desk and computer. Due to reallocation of such equipment, the employee had to “hot desk” during spells when colleagues were not using their desks. This prevented the employee from doing her job properly.
Due to pain and fatigue caused by her illness, the employee found that she could no longer manage the long shifts that she had previously been able to. This was raised by the employee with her employer and a letter was provided from the Claimant’s consultant advising that the employee should not work shifts longer than 6 hours, taking on only light duties wherever possible.
Despite the employer providing assurances, the employee was never invited to meet with her employer to discuss the difficulties presented by the employee’s illness nor the consultant’s advice. On the contrary, the employee was advised by her employer that the employee was contractually obliged to carry out long shifts and therefore required to do them.
Reasonable adjustments not made
Following being told that changes to the length of the employee’s shifts were not permitted, the employee refused to work a longer shift at an event. This resulted in the employee being asked to attend an investigatory meeting under the employer’s disciplinary policy. The employee then wrote to her employer requesting that reasonable adjustments be made in order to assist with her role. The day after the employer received this letter, the employee was asked to attend a disciplinary hearing for major misconduct.
At this point, the employee raised a grievance with her catering company employer raising concerns about her treatment. This was in addition to instructing a solicitor to write a letter to the same effect.
The grievance procedure concluded resulting in only some of the employee’s grievances being partially upheld. It was at this point that the employee felt she had no choice but to resign and to take steps towards lodging a claim against her former employer for disability discrimination.
The employee settled this case with her former employer for £40,000.
Action points for employers
This case highlights how crucial it is for employers to:
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Employment Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.