Recent Disability Discrimination Cases

Our in-house employment law expert, Kate gives an overview of two recent disability discrimination cases and what their outcomes mean for you and your business.

Mutombo-Mpania v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd

The Mutombo-Mpania v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd case dealt with the question of whether or not an employer can be deemed to have knowledge of an employee’s disability in circumstances when the employee had denied having a disability.

The Claimant did not disclose that he had a disability when he completed an application form and a health form. He was employed on a casual basis and his contract made clear that there were no “normal” hours of work: he would be sent a text message offering hours of work and could respond if he wanted to accept the offered hours.

The Claimant was offered and accepted an offer of night shift work from 21 November 2016 to 13 January 2017. However, he subsequently sent an email to say that his “health condition” did not allow him to work regular night shifts and asked for his hours to be changed. He was subsequently offered a combination of afternoon shifts and night shifts.

The Claimant then failed to attend work on four occasions (all night shifts) without following the absence notification procedure and was informed that his services were no longer required. He brought a claim for disability discrimination – relying on the failure of the employer to move him off night shifts completely and the decision to dismiss him as amounting to discrimination.

When he brought his claim, he disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Essential Hypertension. He produced a letter from his doctor which confirmed the diagnosis and explained that it caused him to suffer headaches, fatigue and breathing difficulties, and would cause him to have a heart attack if he didn’t take his medication. However, he did not produce any evidence in the employment tribunal of the impact of the Essential Hypertension on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that:

  • It could not satisfactorily conclude that the Claimant had a disability without evidence of the impact of his health condition on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities; and
  • Importantly, even if the Claimant had been able to persuade the employment tribunal that he had a disability, it would not have been enough for his claim to succeed because he could not show that his employer had knowledge of his disability – he had not disclosed it on the health form and had made only a vague reference to having a “health condition”.

What does this mean for you?

This is an encouraging outcome for employers as employees often fail to disclose health conditions in the early stages of employment. If they do fail to make a disclosure, you cannot be deemed to know about the health condition or make adjustments for it.

However, if they do make a disclosure either at the start or further into their employment you should make reasonable enquiries about the nature of the health condition and impact on them and consider whether you can and should make adjustments for it.

If you need some support or advice in dealing with this, please get in touch as we’d be happy to help.

Dunn v Secretary of State for Justice & another

Mr Dunn was a prison inspector. He became ill with depression and a serious heart condition and applied for ill health early retirement. There was a long delay in dealing with his retirement application and the court of Appeal described the process as unnecessarily bureaucratic and badly handled.

However, it was concluded that there was no disability discrimination. Although the ill-health retirement process was described as inherently defective, the decision makers were not motivated by Mr Dunn’s disability and the process was not discriminatory.

What does this mean for you?

It is not sufficient for an employee to produce evidence of a disability and actions that they’re unhappy with or don’t agree with for there to be a finding of discrimination. There must be a link between the disability and the actions complained of.

Defending your business against a claim can be time consuming, stressful and expensive. We can do most of the hard work for you and reduce the stress and costs to you.

New Dawn Resources’ in-house legal expert, Kate can assess the claim and work with you to defend the claim and minimise the impact on you and your business.

For more information about our fixed fee legal advice service, click here, or call New Dawn Resources on 01484 680098 and we’ll be happy to help.