Case law updates

School failed to follow its disciplinary policy

A school technician who was dismissed due to the belief that his disability was preventing him from performing his role, has won a case for unfair dismissal. In Walker vs Old Swinford Hospital School, the employee rejected two role changes – which included a reduction in pay – following increased periods of absence resulting from a decline in mental wellbeing. Walker, who was informed via a letter that his post would be coming to an end, was unable to attend two meetings to discuss the matter due to his continued ill-health. As a result, he was dismissed with a subsequent appeal rejected.

Walker’s decline in mental wellbeing had resulted from a change in medication, which induced nausea, dizziness and sedation. Despite an appointment with occupational health, in which it was recommended that Walker should be restricted from operating hazardous equipment while his medication stabilised, the school gave no consideration to adjusting his rol, and he was quickly back to fulfilling his full duties.

The Tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair as the school “did not apply or follow its own disciplinary policy” throughout the process. Walker was found to have been dismissed without an investigatory meeting, warning or improvement plan in place. Additionally, the tribunal concluded that Walker had been discriminated against because of his disability, with neither the “short-term nature” of his restrictions or his “improving absence and lateness record” taken into account. All this amounted to disability discrimination.

The tribunal awarded Walker £117,013 in compensation, which comprised of £85,829 for a loss of past and future earnings, past and future free meals and injury to feelings, alongside a further £31,184, which was agreed in settlement of the outstanding pension claims.