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Adjournments on medical grounds

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[Thanks to Laurie Anstis of Boyes Turner, who is standing in for Daniel Barnett. Thanks also to Angharad Davies of Dere Street Barristers for preparing this case summary]

How should tribunals approach an application for a postponement on medical grounds made by a litigant in person during a hearing?

They should have regard to the medical evidence, including that in the bundle, and apply the guidance given in Teinaz v London Borough of Wandsworth, said the EAT in Iqbal v Metropolitan Police Authority.

In Iqbal the Claimant made an application for an adjournment during the hearing, saying that his depression meant that he was unable to continue. The Claimant had consulted doctors about depression but had no formal medical evidence in support of his application. An occupational health report in the bundle referred to the Claimant suffering from depression and other psychological problems. The tribunal refused the Claimant's application for a postponement; the Claimant withdrew the claims he was making and the tribunal dismissed them. 

Noting the difficulties that such applications presented, the EAT concluded that based on Teinaz, the following should be considered: 

a. a litigant who is unfit to continue ought to be granted an adjournment; 

b. the tribunal is entitled to be satisfied that the reason for the adjournment is genuine; 

c. the onus is on the applicant to prove the need for the adjournment; 

d. where there is no direct medical evidence as to the litigant's fitness to continue, the tribunal should consider what medical evidence it has, including material in the tribunal bundle, and

e. the tribunal should consider a short adjournment for further enquiries. 

In this case the tribunal had erred by not taking into account the Claimant's medical history, as outlined in the occupational health report, and not considering a short adjournment to enable him to obtain a medical opinion from his doctor.