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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Wood

Agency worker who was dismissed after she disclosed her mental health was discriminated against

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

After hearing the evidence, the Reading Tribunal found in favour of the agency worker after it was found that after her manager discovered she suffered with depression and anxiety and was on medication for the condition, questioned her resilience for the role and her ability to work with unhappy patients. It was found that her employer did not ‘seek to investigate the matter at all’ or ‘explore any alternative solutions’ before dismissing the agency worker. The agency worker commenced employment with the company via a recruitment agency on 13th June 2022 as a temp administrator on a 12 week contract. It is reported that everything went well for the first two days and that she received positive feedback. However on the 15th June 2022, the agency worker who was being trained by a colleague, was having some problems on the phone speaking with a patient. Her colleague took over and managed the situation, with the agency worker claiming that her colleague stated on the phone to the patient that she was ‘over stressed’ and ‘panicking’. The agency worker stated that she felt the atmosphere in the office was unpleasant after the phone incident and so she decided to speak to the Business Support and Complaints Manager. When speaking to the manager, the agency worker stated that to her she had had some difficulty in 2018 after a doctor noted that she had a ‘history or depression’. She explained to the manager that she had mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression and that she had been prescribed anti-depressants to treat her symptoms. As part of the agency workers evidence, she stated that she had planned to work on the 15th June 2022, however had later agreed with the manager to take the day off. They also agreed that she would call her doctor and let the manager know if she wanted to come into work the next day. Shortly after this, the recruitment agency called the agency worker terminating her contract. The tribunal reached the decision that the less favourable treatment towards the agency worker was because she disclosed her mental health issues, and that they “would have taken a different approach if faced with a very upset worker but who had not disclosed a disability”. The judge said: “It was the fact that the claimant disclosed her mental health condition and the fact she disclosed she was on antidepressant medication that made the manager doubt that the claimant had sufficient resilience for the role and may have had difficulty dealing with unhappy patients.” The judge found it "surprising" that the recruitment agency didn’t seek to discuss the contract termination with the manager and that "she did not seek to persuade the manager to let her speak to the agency worker before a decision was made, nor did she wait to inquire how she was after her GP".

The tribunal ruled that it was “unlikely” that a non-disabled temporary worker would have been “immediately dismissed on the basis that they had become very upset and distressed at work one morning”. Caroline Wood, Managing Director of alphr says that this is a stark reminder for employers to take into account ‘protected characteristics’ when they are considering terminating employment or an engagement. Whilst an employee or worker may not have the two years’ service to make a claim for unfair dismissal, they do have a right from the start of the relationship and even before a role is accepted to make claims of discrimination. This is why it is vital that when looking at terminating a contract or engagement that employers look fully at the whole facts, including if the person involved falls under the protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act.


If you would like any further information on this article, or would like to discuss your employment law and HR matters, please don’t hesitate to contact at hello@alphr.uk and we will be delighted to help you.

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