May 2019 Newsletter

It’s May, and hopefully the bank holidays have provided an opportunity for rest and recuperation – very appropriate in the month of Mental Health Awareness week.  It’s also been the month of new beginnings with the birth of royal baby Archie (but a seemingly painful end to Danny Baker’s time at the BBC).

It also seems to be new beginnings (again) for the cap on public sector exit payments, as the Government’s is reviving its plans to bring this into effect.  We also look at progression in the Government’s plans to extend redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents. Finally, Tribunal awards are on the increase again for employers who discriminate.

In our case update we look at disciplinary action during ongoing police investigation, following internal policies when making reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, and record keeping requirements under EU law on working time.

What we’ve been doing recently…

It’s been a busy month for disability discrimination claims, especially those involving mental ‘impairments’ (using the language of the Equality Act).  We’ve been working on cases involving bi-polar disorder, severe/chronic depression and dyslexia, amongst others.  This is a noticeable trend.

The law is constantly developing, as is the level of detail into which the Employment Tribunals wish to go in terms of dealing with disability claims, and it feels like disability discrimination is turning into something of a niche legal specialism in its own right.  In most of the cases we’ve been dealing with, the Claimant is unrepresented and this means long, tedious case management hearings with the judge where we try to work out what the Claimant’s claims are, from within the considerable list of possible claims provided by the Equality Act for disability discrimination.

Teasing out a few themes for employers and HR professionals to be aware of, we can offer the following:

  • Disability discrimination claims are significantly up in number
  • They are probably the riskiest type of ET claim
  • Mental disabilities are particularly difficult to spot and sometimes more difficult for managers and colleagues to have the same sympathy for as they would with physical disabilities
  • The compensation can be very expensive if you lose
  • Legal fees tend to be higher than with other types of claim simply due to the considerable extra amount of work required for these complex cases.

We offer no magic wand, except to say that the increased awareness around mental health in the workplace is a very good thing in general and, from a legal risk management angle, particularly helpful in allowing line managers and colleagues to spot issues earlier and react more sensitively than perhaps was the case in the past.

 

Mental Health at Work

It was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK from 13-19 May 2019 and we thought this a good opportunity to remind you on our advice on mental health in the workplace, which is available here.

We also put the spotlight on mental health in our Employment Law Update with Mental Health in the Workplace seminar, held in April 2019 (details available here).

Please let us know if you are interested in attending a similar event in the future by calling Victoria Thorne on 0117 325 0922 or email.

 

A roundup of this month’s news: