Dismissal, discrimination and health and safety law

All workers are entitled to work in an environment where their health and safety are properly protected. The primary responsibility lies with the employer under health and safety law and includes matters such as training, risk assessments, consultation, equipment and insurance to the more practical items like first-aid facilities, bathrooms, and drinking water. However, health and safety law does not operate in isolation, especially where mental health conditions are concerned.

In a recent employment tribunal decision, a Sky engineer who was dismissed after breaching health and safety rules whilst experiencing a mental health condition was held to have been discriminated against and unfairly dismissed.

The engineer, Mr. Plowright, was installing hardware for a Sky TV customer in February 2018, on a day when he was going through a divorce and his partner and daughter were moving out. The customer had been talking about their daughter, which made him feel upset and distracted him. He happened to be subject to routine unannounced inspection and was found wearing no safety equipment other than a hard hat at the top of a ladder that was not properly secured.

After being told to stop work, he attended a meeting later that day and was suspended. An occupational health assessment during his suspension confirmed he was suffering ‘reactive depression’, which included reduced concentration, low moods, and poor sleep, resulting in his being declared ‘unfit for work’. His GP also diagnosed him with ‘mood disorder’ and ‘mixed anxiety and depressive disorder’.

However, despite this, at a conduct hearing in May 2018, Mr. Plowright was dismissed, with his appeal failing, after 11 years of service. Sky sought to justify the decision on the basis that he had worked on other jobs that day safely; his personal matters had existed long before then and he had failed to obtain support sooner from his GP or his employer. Mr. Plowright successfully argued he had informed his line manager about his diagnosis of depression on 9 March 2018, which the Tribunal held to be a “sufficient indication” that he could have a mental impairment. The judge held his condition affected his ability to carry out day-to-day activities and was likely to recur after 12 months, rendering him disabled under the Equality Act 2010.

This case shows that whilst health and safety are crucial to any business, dismissal may not always be justifiable as an appropriate and necessary means of achieving this legitimate aim. The circumstances of each case will be important. Businesses need to consider investing in training on health and safety, including recognizing and understanding mental health matters and disability discrimination law better.

We act for employers and employees in all aspects of employment law. If you need advice or want to ensure your documents and policies are up to date, get in touch with us today on 0203 146 3549 / e:mail: [email protected].

Disclaimer 

All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.

Like this article? Share on

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
Linkdin
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on telegram
Telegram
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp

Related articles

Information about our own complaints process, raising concerns to the Legal Ombudsman and to us

We want to give you the best possible service. However, if at any point you become unhappy or concerned about the service we provided then you should inform us immediately, so that we can do our best to resolve the problem.

In the first instance it may be helpful to contact the person who is working on your case to discuss your concerns and we will do our best to resolve any issues at this stage. If you would like to make a formal complaint, then you can read our full complaints procedure here. Making a complaint will not affect how we handle your case.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. 

You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

What do to if we cannot resolve your complaint

The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case.

Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:

  • Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint; and,
  • No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
  • No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
  • If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them.

 Contact details