Employment case update | When is an employee’s impairment deemed to be long-term, and therefore a disability?
In the case of Parnaby v Leicester City Council, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has overruled the Employment Tribunal’s decision that the Claimant’s impairment could… Read more
In the case of Parnaby v Leicester City Council, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has overruled the Employment Tribunal’s decision that the Claimant’s impairment could not be a disability since it had not lasted for more than 12 months.
Mr Parnaby was employed by Leicester City Council. After two periods of prolonged absence owing to work-related stress, his employment was terminated in July 2017 on the grounds of capability. He claimed that he had suffered from disability discrimination, with the dismissal itself constituting the final act of discrimination. While the Council did not dispute that Mr Parnaby’s mental health condition had an adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, it argued in front of the Tribunal that this could not be a disability, as the impairment had not lasted 12 months. The two periods of absence were separated by a return to work of around 6-7 months. Further, the Council tried to argue that the Claimant’s impairment could not be long-term (as required by the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010), as the source of the Claimant’s work-related stress had been removed by dint of the fact that he had been dismissed.
The Tribunal agreed, and Mr Parnaby appealed.
The EAT considered the test applied, and observed that the Tribunal had assessed with hindsight the likelihood of the Claimant’s impairment returning or continuing. However, in fact, the correct test which should have been applied was whether his impairment was likely to last 12 months or whether it might recur in the future, assessing the situation at the time the alleged discriminatory acts had taken place. The Tribunal had erred, the EAT held, by making an assumption that removing Mr Parnaby from the workplace would remove his work-related stress in the future.
The case was therefore remitted to the Tribunal for reconsideration.
This decision is perhaps unsurprising but emphasises the importance of any decisions relating to disabled or potentially disabled employees being supported and guided by up-to-date medical advice.
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Louisa Button is an employment associate
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