Engineer That Was Dismissed While Depressed Wins Tribunal

It has been reported that a technology firm in Cambridgeshire behaved totally unreasonably when they unfairly dismissed their employee, [Employee Name] who was undertaking extended sickness absence due to depression.

[Employee Name] had worked for [Company Name] since April 2011 and had experienced a fractious relationship with his managers, the tribunal were told he had been bullied and intimidated while at work. There were a series of workplace altercations and a disciplinary process was opened against [Employee Name] in October 2015.

During the disciplinary process emails were exchanged between [Employee Name] managers and the process was referred to as part of [Employee Name] exit of the company. During the tribunal [Employee Name] testified that he felt he faced the choice of either accepting a compromise agreement or risk being fired from the company.

Once the gross misconduct allegations were filed against [Employee Name] he was then signed off on sick leave for depression for 2 weeks and then subsequently signed off for a second time for 3 weeks, on being signed off work sick for a third time [Employee Name] manager wrote to him explaining that the company would proceed with the sickness absence procedure and would obtain a medical report from his GP; however the tribunal heard that this tied the sickness absence to the ongoing disciplinary action.

During the time [Employee Name] was signed off sick from work he was continuously reminded by the company that there were disciplinary matters that needed to be dealt with and he was given time limits to respond to that have since been classed as ‘totally unreasonable’ – in some cases as little as two days.

Having looked at the case, the tribunal have found that the company made no consideration towards assisting [Employee Name] on his return to work or waiting until he was fit and well before reconsidering the disciplinary issues.

[Employee Name] raised questions about the holiday allowance he was accruing during his sick leave and asked if he could take his annual leave in a block during his absence but these requests were ignored and unanswered. The tribunal heard that the mental health of [Employee Name] continued to deteriorate during the process.

On the 18th January 2016 a final dismissal meeting was held, even though [Employee Name] had told his employer that the sedatives he was taking under prescription made it harder for him to function in the mornings and he would need to leave to attend a CBT appointment. The disciplinary hearing was opened by the manager, who said “Proceedings should not take long” and the tribunal took this to mean that the company had already decided that a dismissal would be the end result for [Employee Name].

The hearing ended with the manager stating he would consider the options for [Employee Name] before writing him a letter to confirm, but he warned [Employee Name] that one of the options would be termination due to ill-health on the ground of capability and this was the dismissal reason that was later confirmed by letter.

The tribunal found that the dismissal of [Employee Name] was clearly unfavourable treatment because of something arising from his disability as he was dismissed due to his sickness absence, which was down to his disability and that [Employee Name]could not confirm when he would return to work. It was agreed that the dismissal clearly amounted to unfavourable treatment.

It was also found that the technology firm in Cambridgeshire did not make reasonable adjustments for the employee’s mental health; they did not consider suspending the disciplinary case until [Employee Name] was fit to engage with it.

A remedy hearing will be held in due course in regards to the unfair dismissal finding, but [Employee Name] has been awarded £1,000 in income tax and national insurance in respect of the unfulfilled holiday pay made by the company.

If you have concerns about an employee’s sick leave, you want to begin a disciplinary process or have a HR issue that is concerning you, then please contact aspire cambridge on 01223 855441 so that we can offer advice and guidance for you, or deal with the matter on your behalf.