Disability Discrimination: Ill-health retirement procedure

The Court of Appeal in Dunn v The Secretary of State for Justice and anor EWCA/Civ/2018/1998 has recently decided that a poorly handled ill-health retirement procedure did not amount to disability discrimination. The circumstances were that the Claimant was a prison inspector employed by the Secretary of State for Justice. He became ill with depression and a serious heart condition. He applied for early retirement on the grounds of ill-health. He brought claims for disability discrimination and harassment because of the way he was treated due to his illnesses and the way his ill-heath retirement was handled. He raised a number of complaints but only three were allowed and they were substantial, the tribunal ruling in the Claimant’s favour. The tribunal’s decision was overturned by the EAT, and so the Claimant appealed.

There was a long delay in dealing with the retirement application and various mistakes were made, all of which was admitted by the employer. The Court of Appeal described the process as "unnecessarily bureaucratic". However, the Court found there to have been no disability discrimination. The Court upheld the EAT’s decision to dismiss the appeal, confirming that direct discrimination cannot be established without discriminatory motivations. The EAT had not asked itself the wrong question in, having found that the tribunal's reasoning was flawed, holding that if the correct approach had been taken in law the complaints in question would have been bound to fail. In this case the Claimant’s disability was not a decisive factor in the employer conducting a flawed retirement process; the process was inherently flawed. 

Published: 27 September 2018

Article Sections: Ending employment | Discrimination | Sickness

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