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Approaching the question of whether a disability has a long-term effect

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held in Parnaby v Leicester City Council that all four limbs of the definition of disability must be considered in order for a decision to stand.  The Employment Tribunal had erred as it had failed to resolve the question of whether an impairment had a long-term effect prior to any decision to dismiss.  It had wrongly assumed that the Claimant’s dismissal removed the source of the impairment and therefore the likely future duration of the impairment and its impacts would be time limited.

Mr Parnaby was employed by Leicester City Council as a Head Caretaker at the Leicester Creative Business Depot.  Mr Parnaby was dismissed because of his long-term sickness absence due to work related stress.

Mr Parnaby had two periods of work-related stress, the first being 15 April - 31 May 2016 and the second period was January to June 2017.  Mr Parnaby complained that his dismissal amounted to an unfair dismissal and also an act of discrimination.  He also complained that other acts that had taken place before his dismissal amounted to disability discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal noted that the periods of the work-related stress were discreet and not long term and therefore he did not meet the definition of being a disabled person.  Mr Parnaby appealed.

The EAT upheld Mr Parnaby’s appeal.  The EAT held that the Employment Tribunal had failed to consider the likelihood that the impairment was likely to last for 12 months (or likely to recur) at the time the relevant decision was being taken.  As the dismissal had come after many of the acts Mr Parnaby had complained of the dismissal should not have been considered.  The EAT’s view was that as the Employment Tribunal had failed to resolve the question of long-term effect prior to the decision to dismiss it did not feel comfortable in concluding that there was only one answer.  The Employment Tribunal had also fallen into error as it assumed that the likely duration should be treated as time limited by the Claimant’s dismissal. 

It is important therefore that when considering disability that all the limbs of the definition of disability are considered.  This should be considered at all relevant times and employers should be careful that they take into account all the circumstances when reaching its conclusions as to whether an impairment is likely to last for more than 12 months and also whether it would recur.

If you have any questions about this blog, or any other employment matters, please don't hesitate to contact myself and the team on 0113 849 4000 or email employment@schofieldsweeney.co.uk.

About the Author

Rajveer Basra

Solicitor

Rajveer is a Solicitor who works in the Employment team.

She advises employers, senior executives,…

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