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Knowledge of Disability

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Was it perverse for a tribunal to conclude that the Claimant was not disabled and that the employer did not have actual or constructive knowledge of disability?

No, held the EAT in Seccombe v Reed.

The Claimant was dismissed on performance grounds. Prior to his employment he had suffered two bouts of ill health related to anxiety and depression. Neither was long-term. During his employment he suffered a traumatic event which led to a breakdown. He resumed work following a short absence and his managers assumed the issue was resolved. On his health questionnaire he had not disclosed any mental health impairment. His assertions on disability were not supported by medical evidence.

The EAT held that there was no perversity in the tribunal's decision. The Claimant was not disabled on the evidence. He failed to demonstrate that his mental impairment was long-term. The tribunal was entitled to conclude that the employer did not know of any disability. Appeal dismissed.

This judgment provides a useful summary of the law on definition and knowledge. The long-term requirement relates to the effect of the impairment not the impairment itself and is judged at the time of the alleged discrimination, a prediction must be made as to long-term if it is not obvious. The tribunal should not address the four part definition test by rigid consecutive stages, J v DLA Piper.

What a person says about their impairment is important if there is no medical evidence in support. The definition must be met at the time of the alleged discrimination, McDougall v Richmond. The correct approach to knowledge is that in A Ltd v Z. The role of experts is to provide evidence, not to determine whether the definition is met, Vicary v BT.

Thanks to Karen Jackson of didlaw for preparing this case summary.