Angela had been working for her employer, an accountancy firm, for 40 years as their Office Manager. During the pandemic, the office closed and when lockdown eased, the Managing Partner attempted to get all staff to return to the office, regardless of the mix of employees with shielding and childcare responsibilities.
The company put so much pressure on Angela to return to the office that she became ill and had to take sick leave. She was very anxious and upset about the lack of sensitivity about her caring responsibilities. This was in contrast to the flexibility afforded to working mums with children. This constitutes associative disability discrimination.
Angela indicated that she would be prepared to work half her hours in the office and had bought an electric scooter so she did not have to use public transport. Her employer did not return to her on this offer.
Instead, they advised Angela that her performance was in question despite recent positive appraisals. An offer to terminate her contract was made using a Settlement Agreement. The amount offered was less than her statutory redundancy. She was told they needed someone more strategic. Angela was told that if she did not take the Settlement Agreement she would have to attend a disciplinary meeting.
Fiona advised Angela to raise a formal grievance on the grounds of disability discrimination. It is unlawful to directly discriminate against a worker because they are associated with someone else who has a disability. Due to Angela having to shield her mother, she was being threatened with unfair disciplinary action. She had already provided a letter from their GP stating that her mother had serious health problems which meant she should be shielded.
Angela had no choice but to return to work as her sick pay had run out but her GP provided a fit note stating that she should work from home. Angela was then given complex HR tasks without any training on Microsoft Teams or any training on redundancy law. Angela forwarded these to Fiona as examples of victimisation. Her employer discovered she had sent Fiona emails containing these work tasks and threatened Angela with further disciplinary action even though her relationship with her solicitor was privileged. She was threatened with dismissal for gross misconduct.
Fiona helped Angela raise further grievances about her employer’s actions as further disability victimisation and acts of disability harassment under the Equality Act.
Fiona negotiated a substantial increase to the settlement offer from £15,000 to £32,000 which equated to more than one year’s loss of earnings. Fiona also negotiated a large financial contribution towards Angela’s legal fees and a good reference.
Angela secured a new role as Office Manager at another accountancy practice on the same salary within a month of leaving.