week’s case roundup
Whiffen v Milham Ford Girls School, unreported, March 2001, Court of
had been employed part-time on a series of fixed-term contracts for five years.
When a redundancy situation arose in August 1996, her existing contract was not
renewed because the school’s redundancy policy provided that fixed-term
employees should be dismissed before permanent staff. Whiffen’s claim for
indirect sex discrimination was unsuccessful, as was her appeal to the EAT.
appealed successfully to the Court of Appeal, which found there was a
“requirement” to be engaged under a permanent contract because this was the
only way of avoiding an automatic selection for redundancy and the school had
failed to justify this requirement. Further, statistics showed that 100 per
cent of men could satisfy the requirement but only 77.7 per cent of women.
to consider impact of disability
Edwards v Mid Suffolk District Council, IRLR 30 No 4, EAT
1989 Edwards was diagnosed with ME. He subsequently developed a chronic anxiety
disorder. In 1996 Edwards had to accept Bachelor as his assistant, but their
working relationship deteriorated steadily, as did Edwards’ relations with the
had a detrimental effect on both his health and work. The council obtained
medical reports from an occupational health specialist, Duncan, and Edwards’
report stated that Edwards was fit for all his contractual duties and that
“interpersonal difficulties” was the reason for his poor performance.
was dismissed because of the irretrievable breakdown of the working
relationships and his subsequent claims for unfair dismissal and disability
discrimination were unsuccessful. The tribunal found that Edwards’ disability
was not the reason for the deteriorating relationships.
EAT held that the tribunal’s decision was “fatally” flawed because it had
failed to consider the impact of Edwards’ disability on his behaviour and ability
to carry out his work. Further, the tribunal could not simply disregard
Edwards’ medical evidence and it had a duty to explain why the council’s
medical evidence was preferred.