£30,000 for DWP employee dismissed for disability absences

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An employment tribunal awarded more than £30,000 to a public-sector worker who was dismissed after disability absences meant she exceeded her trigger point under the employer’s absence management procedure by a few days. Stephen Simpson rounds up recent tribunal decisions.

£30,000 for employee dismissed for disability absences
In Powell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a worker with 34 years’ service who was dismissed because of disability absences was awarded more than £30,000 for discrimination arising from disability and unfair dismissal.

Ms Powell worked for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from 1980 until her dismissal for ill-health absences in 2014.

The DWP’s sickness absence procedure states that formal action will be taken against employees once they have eight days’ absence, or four spells of absence, within a 12-month rolling period.

Health problems meant that Ms Powell was frequently off sick. As some of her absences were related to a disability, her trigger point was adjusted from the usual eight to 12 days.

However, Ms Powell later went over her allotted 12 days’ absence by a few days, and she was dismissed.

This was despite the DWP’s procedures stating that “dismissal decisions should not turn on a disabled person going a day or two over their trigger point”.

In upholding Ms Powell’s disability discrimination claim, the employment tribunal held that the DWP should have given her more time to improve her attendance.

Ms Powell also won her unfair dismissal claim because of flaws in the DWP’s appeal stage. Her total compensation was £30,388.

Read more details of the case and practical tips in light of the judgment…

Other tribunal decisions in the headlines

Gay canon Jeremy Pemberton was not discriminated against
An employment tribunal has ruled that a gay clergyman prevented from taking up a post as a hospital chaplain was not discriminated against, reports the BBC. The full judgment in Pemberton v Right Reverend Richard Inwood, Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham has been made public.

BBC spent close to £500,000 fighting unfair dismissal claim
The BBC spent almost £500,000 fighting an unfair dismissal claim after reportedly being offered the chance to settle for a tenth of that sum, as reported on Personnel Today.

Hartlepool lecturer wins “substantial payout” over treatment at college
A Hartlepool college lecturer unfairly dismissed from her job has received a “substantial” undisclosed payout, says the Hartlepool Mail.


  1. If even the DWP isn’t Disability Confident, how will a million disabled people get jobs? – Bernadette Meaden – Politics and Insights - 29 Jun 2016

    […] The recent case  of a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employee sacked for taking time off for illness illustrates a truth that the government does not acknowledge. Modern employment practices often appear to be incompatible with its aim of getting sick and disabled people off disability benefits and into work. […]