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Marie-Claire McLaughlin, a customer service adviser of Charles Hurst Limited since July 2012, filed a case against her employer for failing to consider her request appropriately to reduce her working hours from 47.8 to 40 hours per week because of her mental health (BBC News Services, 2017). Marie-Claire has previously suffered panic attacks and depression, and although she applied for the hour's reduction making a specific reference to her disability and the impact the effects had on her, and her colleagues, the company did not look at the matter as required (BBC News Services, 2017). Charles Hurst Limited took 14 months to respond to her file, which the industrial tribunal considered least four and a half months too long, a situation that added to her health issues (BBC News Services, 2017). As a result, the industrial tribunal found that Charles Hurst Limited failed in its duty as an employer to make reasonable adjustments for Marie-Claire making it a discrimination case (BBC News Services, 2017).
The law broken by Charles Hurst Limited
Although the company vehemently opposed all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination the tribunal concluded that Charles Hurst, had discriminated against Marie-Claire McLaughlin under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDC Act) 1995. The Disability, discrimination Act 1995, is an act that was repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010 which makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against their employees because of either their mental or physical disability (Applebey, 2017). The act defines a disables person as anyone who has a mental or physical impairment, which has a substantially adverse and long-term effect on their ability to carry out their normal day-to-day activities, e.g., interacting with colleagues and serving customers in the company (Applebey, 2017).
According to the act, Ms. McLaughlin is considered disabled because her mental condition, adversely affected her normal performance and her relationship with her colleagues. Among the forms of unlawful discrimination under the act is the failure of the company to make reasonable adjustments in relation to disability (Applebey, 2017). As such in the case above, Charles Hurst failed in their responsibility to protect Marie-Claire’s mental well-being by failing to adjust her working hours to a number that she can manage hence going against the law (BBC News Services, 2017).
After putting all arguments into consideration, the tribunal held that there was no doubt that the treatment Ms. McLaughlin received at work affected her mental health and well-being and as such awarded her with £11,840 as compensation (Applebey, 2017). The tribunal argued that "Had the employer focused correctly on the concept of reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and taken a proactive approach to the matter, all members of the tribunal are satisfied that the claimant would have had the benefit of the reduced hours she sought at an earlier stage."
According to, Dr. Michael Wardlow, of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, "There is a need for employers to be more pro-active in addressing issues around mental health” (BBC News Services, 2017). The statement by Dr. Wardlow explains the importance of employers focusing on their employees by providing them with proper and timely responses to issues as the move does not only benefit the individual but also the people around them and the company at large (BBC News Services, 2017).
After the compensation and adjustments, the tribunal noted that Ms. McLaughlin found it easier to carry out her day to day activities and had little or no absence from work. She also found it easier to get her job done and involve with her colleagues a move that also helped the company she was more present and productive (BBC News Services, 2017).
Applebey, L. (2017, November 10). Mental ill health in court: disability and discrimination - SHP - Health and Safety News, Legislation, PPE, CPD and Resources. Retrieved from https://www.shponline.co.uk/mental-ill-health-court-disability-discrimination/
BBC News Services. (2017, September 1). Woman awarded £11k in discrimination case. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-41121288
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