When was it deemed that the employer knew about the employee’s disability?

Summary

The Employment Appeal Tribunal erred in concluding that an employer had no knowledge of an employee’s disability until November after receiving an Occupational Health Report, where the evidence showed that it ought to have reasonably known that she was disabled in July, when the employee met with the chief executive and told her she was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Lamb v The Garrard Academy UKEAT/0042/18

Facts

The employee had been employed at the school and was sick from work from the 29 February 2012 because of reactive depression and alleged bullying at work. In March the employee raised a grievance that was being dealt with and in July met with the chief executive and told her that she suffered with PTSD caused by childhood experiences, which could be triggered by difficult situations. She was subsequently assessed by Occupational Health, who concluded in their report dated 21 November that she was suffering with PTSD but had a good chance of recovery if the grievance was resolved.

In the first instance the Tribunal accepted she was a disabled person due to her condition but stated that despite the school having actual knowledge from July, it did not know she was a disabled person until November because only then, after one year of symptoms had first appeared, was the long-term element of disability satisfied and no duty of reasonable adjustments arose before November.

Outcome

In the first instance the Tribunal accepted she was a disabled person due to her condition but stated that despite the school having actual knowledge from July, it claimed it did not know she was a disabled person until November because only then, after one year of symptoms had first appeared, the “long-term” element of disability was satisfied. As a consequence it was held that no duty of reasonable adjustments arose before November.

On Appeal the EAT stated that the employee’s condition was known to be long-term going back as a child, the impairment was known to interfere with her day to day activities so was inconsistent with the finding of knowledge was from November only. Therefore the date of knowledge would be July when the chief executive was told.

Implications for Employers

It is clarification for employers as to the date of knowledge of a disability, as they will be subjected to the duty to make reasonable adjustments from this date. Ignorance to this fact may see a successful claim under disability discrimination law for failure to make reasonable adjustments.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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