Employee Not Disabled In The Absence Of Evidence Explaining Impact On Normal Day-To-Day Duties

In the case of Mutombo-Mpania v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that an employee was not a disabled person as he had not evidenced the impact of his impairment on normal day-to-day activities. In addition the employer could not reasonably have been expected to know of any disability in this case.

The Claimant suffered from essential hypertension. At the outset of his employment with the Respondent, he completed an application form indicating that he did not consider himself to have any form of disability. He also failed to disclose his condition on a health form used for occupational health referral purposes.

The Respondent supplied flexible, casual staff to the Royal Mail Group. During his employment, the Claimant accepted night shift work at the Glasgow Mail Centre on numerous occasions. In November 2016 the Claimant agreed to work some night shifts in the run up to Christmas. However, shortly after accepting the work, the Claimant emailed the Respondent to advise that his “health condition” prevented him from working regular night shifts.

The Claimant then failed to attend work on four occasions in November and December and he was subsequently told that the Glasgow Mail Centre no longer wanted to engage him.

As a result, the Claimant issued a number of claims in the Employment Tribunal, including one for disability discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) had to consider whether or not the Claimant was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 (the Act). Under the Act, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The ET held that the Claimant was not a disabled person for the purposes of the Act as he had not evidenced the impact of his physical impairment on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Importantly, although the Claimant referred to his desire to not work regular night shifts, he did not explain the impact that working night shifts would have on him or his condition.  

The ET considered the fact that the Claimant had worked night shifts previously and had denied having a disability on both his application form and the health form. The ET held that even if the Claimant had established that he was a disabled person, the Respondent did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the Claimant had a disability.

The Claimant appealed, but the EAT upheld the ET’s ruling.

Although employers will be pleased with the outcome of this case, caution should still be taken when a member of staff makes a vague reference to suffering from a health condition. In this scenario, further questions should be asked (in an appropriate and sensitive manner) in order to establish whether the condition could constitute a disability and give rise to an obligation to make reasonable adjustments. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any other aspect of employment law at 029 2034 5511 or employment@berrysmith.com