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Case law: Employer cannot assume work-related disability will cease if employee dismissed

Employers faced with an employee who has a work-related disability cannot assume that dismissal – so removal from the cause of their disability - will mean the disability ceases for the purpose of calculating whether the disability is likely to have a long-term effect on them, a Tribunal has ruled.

October 2019

This update was published in Legal Alert - October 2019

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

An employee suffering from work-related stress was dismissed and claimed disability discrimination. He had been suffering from stress for fewer than 12 months.

An individual is disabled for the purposes of discrimination law if they have a physical or mental impairment which has, or is likely to have, a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. ‘Long-term’ usually means 12 months.

His employer claimed he was not disabled for the purposes of discrimination law because now that he had been dismissed his disability was unlikely to last more than 12 months.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) ruled that the employee was not disabled because his condition would not have a long-term effect on his ability to carry out day-to-day activities. It agreed with the employer that once he was removed from the work environment that was causing his stress, his stress would cease. Since his employment had lasted fewer than 12 months, he was not therefore ‘disabled’ for the purposes of discrimination law.

However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) disagreed. The proper approach was to consider whether the impairment was likely to last 12 months, or could well reoccur in the future. It was not the ET’s job to make assumptions about the effect on the employee’s impairment of removing him from the source of his stress.

Considering whether the impairment ‘could well’ reoccur meant deciding whether it was more probable than not that it could.

The EAT sent the matter back to the ET to reconsider.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers who have an employee with a work-related disability cannot assume that dismissing the employee – so removing them from what is causing their disability - will mean the disability ceases for the purpose of calculating whether the disability is likely to have a ‘long-term’ effect on them.

Case ref: Parnaby v Leicester City Council UKEAT/0025/19/BA

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