Engineer sacked while depressed wins employment claim

Published: 26 February 2018

Category: News

An engineer who was sacked while off work with depression has won his claim of unfair dismissal after a tribunal ruled that the employer had been “totally unreasonable”.

Andrew Mitchell started working as a software engineer for Amiho Technology in Cambridgeshire in 2011. He claimed he had a difficult relationship with some of his managers, whom he described as bullying and intimidating.

Mr Mitchell was involved in a workplace argument in 2015, which led to disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct.  He said the company sent him emails that gave him the impression that the process was being used to get him to leave or face being sacked.

He was then signed off work on 3 occasions, suffering from depression. On the third occasion, he was told that the company would proceed with its sickness absence procedure and would obtain medical reports. His manager added that when his sickness period ended, he would remain suspended while the disciplinary proceedings continued.

While he was off work, the company continued to contact him about the gross negligence matter and he was given as little as 2 days to respond to correspondence.

He was sacked in July 2016 following a dismissal meeting, which was held despite Mr Mitchell informing the company that he had difficulty functioning because of the prescription medicine he was taking.

The Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair. It described the time limit for replying to emails while he was off sick was “totally unreasonable”.

The company had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Mr Mitchell’s mental health and made no attempt at mediation. Nor did it consider suspending the disciplinary process until Mr Mitchell was able to cope with it.

Employment Judge Laidler said: “The Claimant’s dismissal was clearly unfavourable treatment because of something arising from his disability, as he was dismissed because of his sickness absence, which was entirely down to his disability, and because he could not say when he would return.

“The Respondent knew or reasonably ought to have known that he was disabled by the time of the dismissal meeting. The dismissal clearly amounted to unfavourable treatment.”

The level of compensation will be decided at a further hearing.

Please contact Matthew Sigsworth in our Dispute Resolution Team if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of Employment Law.