Williams v Newport City Council [2023] EAT 136

Appeal against a finding that the Claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Appeal allowed.

The Claimant was a social worker. From the start of 2015 the fostering team was responsible for viability assessments, being assessments of the suitability of one or more individuals, usually family members, to care for a particular child. Such assessments can be challenged in the family court. The Claimant was not required to attend court apart from in relation to one case in June 2016. On that occasion, the Judge in a particular case required someone from the Respondent to be present and the Claimant, although not involved with the case directly, was asked by the Team Manager to attend. The Claimant’s inability to answer the Judge’s questions led to the Judge being deeply critical of her and the Claimant recorded the Respondent’s barrister at the time describing her as having been a ‘human punch bag.’ The Claimant was significantly impacted by her treatment by the Judge, describing herself as traumatised although she did not take any sickness absence at the time. In March 2017 the Claimant was informed that she would be expected to attend court if necessary which the Claimant was disturbed by, mindful of her experiences of the previous June. As a consequence, the Claimant attended her GP and was signed off as unfit for work for 28 days due to stress at work. In the event she never materially returned to work from that point on. She was dismissed after 18 months off sick. Her Equality Act 2010 complaints, relating to her treatment during employment and to the dismissal, were dismissed by the tribunal, because it found that she was not at the material times a disabled person. The Claimant appealed.

The EAT allowed the appeal. The tribunal had erred because it had failed to take into account its own findings that the Claimant’s anxiety at the prospect of being required to attend at court, if or when she returned, meant that she was not fit to return to her job at all unless or until the Respondent removed that requirement. Both the Respondent at the time, and the tribunal, accepted that this was genuinely the case and supported by medical advice and evidence. Accordingly, the tribunal could only properly have concluded, in light of these facts, that the impairment which she had throughout the material period, also throughout that period had a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.


Published: 08/11/2023 15:50

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