Case law: Employers who cause or aggravate employee's illness should take extra care to act fairly in disciplinary proceedings
Employers who have caused or aggravated an employee's illness should ensure they act fairly and reasonably, including considering longer periods of absence, before disciplining the employee, following a recent ruling.
This update was published in Legal Alert - December 2015
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An employee with depression was dismissed on grounds of capacity after 162 days of ill-health absence from work. Her depression was triggered by allegations that she had been stalking someone out of work.
Before the dismissal the employer had received information that implied the employee was innocent, but had refused to let her have it. The employee got hold of it anyway and passed it to the police, who dropped the allegations.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that she had been unfairly dismissed. It said the employer had not been responsible for the employee's depression but her illness could have ended sooner if the employer had disclosed the information.
It found that the employer's behaviour had aggravated the employee's depression, that this was relevant to the issue of whether her dismissal was fair or not, and that in the circumstances it had not been reasonable for the employer to dismiss her when it did.
However, it said that a dismissal for ill-health absence may have been fair or reasonable if made at some later stage, if she had continued to stay away from work and refused alternative comparable employment.
Employers who have caused or aggravated an employee's illness should ensure they act fairly and reasonable, including considering longer periods of absence before disciplining the employee, and attempting to find alternative employment first
Case ref: L v M UKEAT/0382/13/DXA
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