Tribunal victory for depressed worker
A woman with clinical depression won her unfair dismissal claim in a tribunal judgment that mental health campaigners hope will act as a reminder to employers of their obligations to staff with mental health problems. The Stratford employment tribunal found that Waltham Forest council had unfairly dismissed Sandra Samuel, 49, and had failed to take her clinical depression into account - a requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
Kiran Daurka, a solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker, who represented Samuel, says: "We hope that this will send a clear message to all employers that they must make reasonable adjustments for someone with a mental health condition, just as they are required to with any physical disability."
Samuel was diagnosed with clinical depression after the birth of her twins, and began working a 24-hour week at Waltham Forest council, in east London, where she had worked since 1990. She was dismissed while experiencing a bout of severe depression after a disciplinary incident, but was reinstated after the council formally admitted that it had not taken her condition into account. After a series of delays, the council offered her a new role, which did not enable a 24-hour week. Unable to cope, she resigned claiming constructive dismissal. She took her case to a tribunal, which ruled last month that the council had failed to give Samuel the chance to state her case. The head of human resources for adult and community services, Louise Frayn, was found to have an "unsympathetic attitude which bordered on hostility" and had not given "any consideration to the possible effects on [Samuel's] ability to carry out the job effectively".
Paul Corry, director of public affairs at the mental health charity Rethink, says he hopes the case will result in an increase in people with mental health conditions using the DDA for employment protection. "The law makes it very clear that mental health comes under the act, but in practice it is often ignored. Sandra Samuel had to fight for four years for this ruling, but she did not give up and we hope others will follow her lead. We have worked hard to get the law changed and now must make sure the law is used."