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CASE STUDY: Employee felt forced to leave her job due to disability

case study

What happened:

Jenny had been employed by a large charity since January 2018 as a Building Surveyor.

In around April 2019 she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the symptoms of which had been under investigation since early 2018. Fibromyalgia often takes a long time to diagnose; it is a long-term condition that causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness. Jenny also suffered from a history of depression and anxiety, associated with her fibromyalgia.

For nearly two months from December 2018 she was absent from work with the symptoms of fibromyalgia.  Following this, she returned to work on a phased return basis, but felt she was pressured by her line manager to return to work on a full-time basis sooner than had been originally agreed.

Due to the pressure to return early and force herself back to work sooner than she felt comfortably able to, Jenny incurred further absences as a result of a deterioration in her condition.

Jenny was absent from work again for around four months between April and July 2019.  In June 2019, she attended a meeting with her line manager and HR and her return to work was explored.  She informed the charity that she intended to return to work in July 2019.  The charity told her that it was intending to review her contract.

Jenny returned to work as anticipated in July 2019 on a phased return basis.  In August 2019, she attended an Occupational Health (OH) review in which she asked about reasonable adjustments.  The OH adviser told Jenny that they would need to observe her working to advise her of what adjustments may be beneficial.

In early September 2019, Jenny attended a capability meeting in which it was stated that her performance would not be assessed; only her absence levels would be considered.  During this meeting she made a request for reasonable adjustments, most of were refused.

Jenny had asked for reasonable adjustments which included flexibility around her working hours (in respect of later start times) and the ability to work from home when necessary.

Jenny raised a grievance in respect of the rejected requests for adjustment; however, the charity upheld its original decision.  After submitting her grievance, she was informed by her manager that she had ‘created a hostile environment’ for them both.

During the period September to December 2019, Jenny had a series of intermittent absences on almost a weekly basis (worsened by the lack of flexibility afforded to her by the charity).  In mid-December 2019, following the result of her grievance appeal, which had exacerbated her symptoms, she was signed off sick until 6th January 2020.

In December 2019, whilst off sick, Jenny attended a further OH review at her employer’s request.  The outcome of this review was that she was deemed to be unfit for work for the following three months.  In early January 2020 she was suspended on medical grounds.  On the same day, her manager approached her with a settlement agreement proposal, to include her termination on the basis of an ex-gratia payment of £3,000.

The impact:

Jenny felt she was made to leave her job as a result of her condition and the way it had affected her, despite a lack of reasonable adjustments provided that could have facilitated her to perform her role effectively.  She was also upset that something like this could happen as a result of a condition, which she will have for the rest of his life.

How Morecrofts helped:

Jenny contacted Morecrofts to provide assistance with her settlement agreement.  On looking at Jenny’s paperwork and listening to her account of the past two years with her employer, we advised Jenny that her case was worth more than what was being offered in settlement at that time.

We entered into negotiations with her employers, but they refused to increase the original offer much further.  Jenny decided not to sign the settlement agreement, following which she was dismissed as a result of her absence record.

As a result, we helped Jenny to issue Employment Tribunal proceedings for disability discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal.  Following this, her employers came forward at an early stage in the proceedings and made a further offer that was considerably higher than that contained within the original settlement agreement.

The result:

We managed to secure a much higher settlement for Jenny of £14,000 than the original £3,000 that was originally offered.  Jenny was happy to finally put the events which led to her claim behind her and seek a new start with a new employer who is able to provide her with support and flexibility.

Morecrofts solicitor who dealt with the case:

Kelly Faulkner, assisted by Jane Riddoch

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Call: 0151 236 8871 Email: info@morecrofts.co.uk Call: 0151 236 8871