A trader who became ill after working excessive hours in an understaffed department was discriminated against because of his mental health, which amounted to a disability, an employment tribunal has ruled.
The law firm that assisted the employee in his claim said the judgment should act as a warning to the financial services sector to safeguard employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
Adam Glover Bailie was the head of equities and fixed income at the UK office of commodity trading firm the Archer-Daniels Midland Company.
He claimed his mental health issues began in 2016 when he began working long hours to cover multiple roles, but deteriorated further in 2017 when he was promoted to run the department.
After his promotion, he told the company’s head of HR that he was feeling stressed. He later suffered a breakdown.
In January 2018 Bailie was diagnosed with clinical depression and a month later, after working even longer hours to manage an increased workload during wild swings in the markets, he was prescribed anti-depressants.
He was given temporary medical leave for work-related stress in May 2018 and permanently signed-off work in August 2018. He has not worked since.
Mr Bailie believed that a senior manager, Fabian Somerville-Cotton, had been trying to force him out of the organisation. He told the tribunal that, while he was on sick leave, Somerville-Cotton told Bailie’s colleagues that Bailie would continue in a senior leadership role but another employee would take on the role of co-head of the department and would have overall responsibility for the team.
Bailie only heard about the change from colleagues and not the company itself. He also complained that the changes were in contrast with the assurances he had been given by the company’s HR department.
He claimed that the head of HR had been hostile towards him and unsupportive when he was diagnosed as unfit for work in May 2018.
An employment tribunal found that Bailie had been directly discriminated against because of his mental health “disability” and was treated unfavourably because he was absent from work because of this disability.
Additional claims of indirect discrimination, failure to make reasonable workplace adjustments and harassment and victimisation were dismissed by the tribunal.
Shazia Khan, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represented Bailie, said: “My client is delighted his case has been successful, not only for himself but for other workers in the industry who suffer from stress and anxiety created by a hostile and unsupportive working environment and culture.
“Senior managers in the financial services industry will now really have to take these issues very seriously going forward if they want to avoid further such claims made against them.
“The Financial Conduct Authority has recently published a discussion paper on transforming culture in financial services and has made it very clear by this and by the recent introduction of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR) that it is determined to set minimum standards for the behaviour of financial services staff and promote a culture where senior managers take responsibility for identifying where harm might occur and to take action to prevent it.
“There is now a formal link between the behaviour of individuals and the conduct of the firm. This case will be a forerunner of many similar claims.”
A two-day hearing to discuss whether Bailie is entitled to compensation will take place in January.
The Archer-Daniels Midland Company has been contacted for comment.