In a recent tribunal case we successfully defended a business facing claims of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination from a former employee.

The employee had worked for our client in a manual handling role and had been signed off sick due to back pain and depression.

In an attempt to facilitate the employee’s return to work, our client obtained several medical reports which confirmed that the employee’s health issues were not permanent, were treatable and that he was fit to return to the job he was employed to do.

However, despite being declared fit for work, the employee refused to return due to his anxiety that the job would cause his back pain to return. The employee argued that he was disabled, and that as such our client was under a duty to provide him with an alternative job.

If the employee was classed as disabled, our client would have been under an obligation to consider whether any reasonable adjustments could be made to his role. However, due to the fact that all jobs involved manual handling, our client could not find a suitable alternative role and ultimately the employee was dismissed on the grounds of capability.

We were successful in arguing that the employee’s perception that he could not return to work due to fear of his back pain reoccurring did not itself constitute a disability. He was therefore not able to establish any disability discrimination. We also successfully defended the unfair dismissal claim by proving that the employer had taken all reasonable steps to facilitate the employee’s return to work before dismissing him when it was clear that this was not possible.