Sara was employed by a global, Brighton-based company for over 20 years. She had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early 2020 and suffered with physical, cognitive and mental health problems. She was in constant pain, suffered with aching joints, headaches, heartburn and stomach problems. At times her memory was impacted and she often experienced sleeplessness, depression and anxiety.
Her employer’s HR Manager accepted that she had a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act. Initially, she followed the recommendations of their Occupational Health advisor and provided Sara with a Mac as a reasonable adjustment. This offers more dark modes than other pcs and helped with headaches and light sensitivity. The Company also provided her with an adjustable chair, desk and footstool. These adjustments were inexpensive and the company were reimbursed through the Access to Work scheme and enabled Sara to remain at work.
Sara was promoted into a new role in the same premises, weeks before the lockdown. Prior to starting her new position, she discussed her disability and requirements with her new manager and HR representatives.
On starting her new role Sara was required to work from home full time due to the pandemic. She asked the Company to provide her with a suitable docking station so she could manage and minimise pain when working on her computer. She also asked for a footstool. The cost of these adjustments were minimal. Her new manager refused her requests on the basis that it was not company policy to do so.
Sara also noticed that the allocation of work was unevenly distributed and she was not being given new work. Interestingly her colleagues were complaining of being over-worked. Although Sara kept asking for more work her requests were ignored and she did not have enough to do. Although her manager would not listen to her he was also over familiar and called her “darling”.
Sara raised her concerns on a number of occasions but they were ignored. She became increasingly stressed and anxious about the fact that she was not able to carry out her job and she was suffering unnecessary pain because of the refusal to support her with the adjustments she needed. Her heightened stress levels led to her being signed off on long term sick leave. Her sick pay expired without warning or notice and she was left without an income. Furthermore, the Company failed to offer any of the support that should have been available under their sickness policy, such as referrals to Occupational Health or counselling.
Sara raised a formal grievance as a last resort, hoping that the Company would support her by implementing the reasonable adjustments and addressing the inappropriate conduct of her manager, so that she could return to work. Her grievance was largely rejected and Sara could not see how she could reasonably be expected to return to work.
Due to her health and financial commitments, she could not afford to resign with immediate effect.
We discussed options with Sara and advised her that she had grounds for disability discrimination and sexual harassment claims. We also explained that she could claim for the Company’s breach of the implied terms of trust and confidence. However, our client did not want to endure the stress and expense of litigation.
With this in mind, we wrote to the Company to see if they were prepared to enter into a Settlement Agreement. This would offer compensation to Sara for the injury caused to her and to compensate her for her loss of employment. In return Sara would waive her right to bring any claims.
We explained the potential value of her claims and pointed out that a Settlement Agreement would help the Company protect its reputation and reduce management time and costs by avoiding her grievance appeal and the inevitable litigation that would follow.
The Company agreed that a Settlement Agreement would offer a good outcome for all parties. The initial compensatory offer was low but over the course of three weeks, they agreed to increase compensation. This settled on a payment in lieu of notice of £13,000, tax free compensation of £23,000 plus accrued holiday pay of £4,500 and a reference.
This was all to be paid within one week of the agreed termination date to help our client avoid falling behind with her bills and other financial commitments.
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