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Medical evidence not always required

Background

The Claimant was employed by Hampshire County Council (“the Council”) as a carer. The Council commenced disciplinary investigations after allegations were raised and the Claimant was suspended during a meeting.

The Claimant was dyslexic and as a result of this condition she did not fully understand what was happening at the meeting in which she was suspended. The Claimant actually thought she was being dismissed and this suspension resulted in the Claimant suffering from depression.

Later, the disciplinary proceedings were dropped but the Claimant was too unwell to return to work as a result of her depression. The Council then commenced an absence management procedure and subsequently dismissed the Claimant due to her absence.

The Claimant issued proceedings for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

Decision

The Claimant’s claim was successful. Although the suspension had not been unlawful, the manner in which it was conducted amounted to disability discrimination as the Council did not explain what was happening slowly and clearly to the Claimant taking into account her dyslexia. The Employment Tribunal also found that there were a number of other discriminatory acts in relation to the process followed, including her dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant had also suffered personal injury (depression) as a result of the Council’s discriminatory acts. It awarded £15,000 for injury to feelings and a further £10,000 for personal injury, finding that the Claimant’s depression was ‘moderately severe’ despite not having supporting medical evidence.

The Council appealed arguing that medical evidence must be obtained.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) rejected the appeal and upheld the original decision. It found that medical evidence was not a pre-requisite for an award for personal injury and the evidence available may be sufficient to make an award of this type.

Comment

Although the decision demonstrates that medical evidence is not always an absolute requirement, both the Employment Tribunal and the EAT stated that it is unusual not to have this information available and it would always be advisable to obtain medical evidence where awards for personal injury are claimed.

This case is also a reminder that employers should consider making adjustments to processes where the employee has a disability to award a similar finding of discriminatory treatment.

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