Employer who dismissed employee with dementia failed to make reasonable adjustments for him (Watts v Long Eaton Plant Hire Limited)
In the case of Watts v Long Eaton Plant Hire Ltd: 2600235/2017 the Employment Tribunal held that Mr Watts’ previous employer had discriminated against him by failing to make reasonable adjustments for his disability.
The facts in Watts v Long Eaton Plant Hire Ltd
Mr Watts worked as a Plant Machine Driver for Long Eaton Plant Hire Limited (“LEPH”). He suffered from cognitive difficulties and was off sick for some month; on 8 July 2016 he was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
On or about 12 August 2016 Mr Watts telephoned Mr Denneny at LEPH and informed him that he had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and something to the effect that he was resigning (although there was a dispute as to exactly what was said). There was no further communication between LEPH and Mr Watts until 31 October 2016 when a letter was sent to him confirming that his voluntary resignation had been accepted, and that his termination date would be recorded as 30 September 2016.
Mr Watts subsequently issued an Employment Tribunal claim for (ordinary) unfair dismissal and disability discrimination (in that he alleged that LEPH had failed to make reasonable adjustments for his disability).
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Watts v Long Eaton Plant Hire Ltd
The Employment Tribunal upheld Mr Watts’ claims for unfair dismissal and failure to make reasonable adjustments
The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Watts’ effective date of termination was 1 November 2016 – there was a dispute as to what Mr Watts had intended to convey in the conversation on 12 August 2016 but the Tribunal held that he had not evinced an intention to resign immediately or had given notice of such; the Tribunal held that he was expressing an intention to resign with effect on some unspecified future date. On the facts LEPH had terminated his employment by the way of the letter dated 31 October 2016, which Mr Watts had received on 1 November 2016. His employment had therefore been terminated and the termination date was 1 November 2016.
Having held that LEPH had terminated Mr Watts’ employment the Tribunal found that his dismissal was clearly unfair: there had been no procedure undertaken prior to Mr Watts’ dismissal and the dismissal could not therefore have been within the range of reasonable responses in the circumstances.
Failure to make reasonable adjustments
The Employment Tribunal held that LEPH was aware that Mr Watts had been diagnosed with early onset dementia – this was clear from his May and July fit notes and, further, Mr Denneny had been informed of such by Mr Watts in their telephone conversation on 12 August 2016. LEPH therefore accepted that Mr Watts was at all times relevant to the claim a disabled person. The Tribunal also held that LEPH ought to have known that Mr Watts had a disability.
The Employment Tribunal also held that the PCP that applied was that of requiring or expecting Mr Watts to carry out his job driving heavy plant machinery, that this caused him substantial disadvantage as a disabled person because his condition meant that he could nor no longer should do this, that in order to avoid the substantial disadvantage LEPH should have offered Mr Watts alternative work and, finally, should it have done so then Mr Watts would not have dismissed. The Tribunal therefore held that LEPH had failed in its duty to consider or make reasonable adjustments for Mr Watts.
Our analysis of the law relating to failure to make reasonable adjustments can be found here.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Watts loss of earnings (although the exact sum was not calculated) and a sum of £5,000 in respect of injury to feelings.
Our solicitors’ view on Watts v Long Eaton Plant Hire Ltd
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “If employers know that an employee has a disability (or they ought reasonably be aware of such) then they should take prompt and effective steps to discover the extent of that disability, its prognosis, and any adjustments that they can make in the workplace to compensate for the disability.”
The judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found here.