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Did employer know that its employee was disabled?

View profile for Emily Yeardley
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Mrs Lamb was employed by a School, The Garrard Academy from September 2010 but was dismissed on grounds of ill-health on 25 February 2014. She brought claims of unfair dismissal, race and disability discrimination to the employment tribunal.

Mrs Lamb went off sick from 20 February 2012, returning briefly in July 2012 but went off sick again in September 2012. She told her employer that she was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which had been triggered by alleged bullying at work and reactive depression in July 2012. She raised a grievance to the employer about various matters including the alleged bullying but due to a change in HR Manager, it took 15 months to conclude the grievance process. The School had concluded that it did not know she was disabled until 21 November 2012. It therefore argued that the duty to make reasonable adjustments did not arise until November.

Tribunal decision

Mrs Lamb’s claims failed so she appealed against the decision.

Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision

The EAT held that the tribunal was wrong to conclude that the School did not have knowledge of her disability until 21 November 2012. It held that the School should have made a referral to Occupational Health sooner but that in any event, it had actual knowledge of her disability from July 2012 and so the duty to make reasonable adjustments arose on that date.

The School had, amongst other things, failed to deal with her grievances promptly and it had therefore failed to make a reasonable adjustment which could have resulted in her returning to work sooner.

Comment

This case demonstrates that an employer will not escape liability if it delays in referring an employee to Occupational Health and uses this to assert that it did not know that the employee was disabled. It also illustrates the importance of dealing with grievances promptly.

If you are concerned that an employee may be disabled or you want to find out more about the duty to make reasonable adjustments, please contact our employment department.

Lamb v The Garrard Academy UKEAT/0042/18

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

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