October’s top five employment law cases

People Management take a look at the five most read tribunals of last month – from stressful workplaces to highly restrictive covenants

1. Nurse unfairly dismissed following stress-induced sick leave

A senior cancer care nurse was unfairly dismissed from his job in the NHS, and unlawfully discriminated against because of disability, an employment tribunal (ET) has ruled. 

The Aberdeen tribunal found Mr J Horn – who developed a depressive illness in 2016 after feeling stressed at work during a period of staffing shortages – was unfairly dismissed on health grounds after he began a phased return to work following a long period of sick leave. It said his employer, the Grampian Health Board, dealt with the issue in an “insensitive and unreasonable” manner.

The ET found the health board made no consideration of Horn’s disability status during the process of dismissing him, which amounted to discrimination on the grounds of disability.

2. GP manager unfairly dismissed after allegedly awarding herself unauthorised pay rise

A manager at a GP practice was unfairly dismissed following allegations that she and her mother handed themselves unauthorised pay rises, an ET has ruled. 

Sareet Sidhu was dismissed for gross misconduct over allegations of theft of money, removing cash from the practice, failing to follow management instructions and increasing her own pay from £24,000 to £97,000 without authorisation or justification. But the Watford ET ruled that Sidhu’s employer – Allenby Clinic/Northolt Family Practice in west London – failed to carry out a proper investigation because Sidhu was not given the opportunity to participate.

It added that Sidhu’s dismissal for increasing her salary would have been fair if a proper investigation had been conducted. Sidhu’s mother’s claims are being heard separately.

3. Turning job share into full-time role was unfair, tribunal rules

An employee with a job share arrangement was unfairly dismissed and suffered indirect sex discrimination after her employer attempted to change her role to a full-time position, a Sheffield ET tribunal ruled.

Capita Customer Management Services indirectly discriminated against Mrs J McBride, who was employed on a permanent part-time basis, after it failed to provide evidence when it made her job full time that doing so would ensure the role worked most effectively.

Instead, employment judge Robert Little said it appeared to the tribunal that Capita “endeavoured to distance itself from the part-time/full-time dichotomy”, and that a reasonable employer would have fully tested if a part-time or job share arrangement could fulfil the requirements of the role.

4. Flight attendant discriminated against following brain tumour

Employers have been reminded of their duty to make reasonable adjustments after an airline was found guilty of discrimination because it failed to reassign a flight attendant into a ground-based role following a brain tumour. 

A London ET unanimously ruled that Ryanair discriminated against and constructively dismissed Margita Dworak as a consequence of its “ongoing discriminatory treatment” in relation to her disability. It found the employer repeatedly ignored requests by Dworak for reasonable adjustments and reassignment to ground-based roles, and said that asking her to apply for suitable roles through an open, standard recruitment process amounted to “not making any adjustments whatsoever”.

Judge Tobin said the failure to provide Dworak with alternative work or adjust a role to accomodate her disability amounted to disability discrimination, and that Dworak’s resignation was not “because of her illness, nor did she resign for any other reason than [Ryanair’s] intentional and continuous failure to provide her with work”.

5. Financial advisor was ‘blackmailed’ to sign restrictive covenant

A financial advisor has won a claim for unfair dismissal after his employer made false allegations to pressurise him into accepting an extended restrictive covenant agreement and attempted to stop him joining a potential competitor, an ET has ruled. 

The Nottingham ET found Peter Ward was constructively and unfairly dismissed by Fiducia Comprehensive Financial Planning after he claimed one of its directors “blackmailed” him, or threatened to do so, unless he signed an agreement lengthening his post-termination restrictive covenants. 

The judge said: “While the term ‘blackmail’ may be somewhat emotive, there is no doubt that [Fiducia] made it clear to [Ward] that if he refused to sign the new draft agreement they would pursue allegations of gross misconduct against him which would undoubtedly tarnish his professional reputation.”