Hill v Clacton Family Trust Ltd,
Court of Appeal,
17 October 2005
Hill was employed as a care assistant for young people. In August 2000, she took some of the children to see a stunt show, during which a motorcyclist landed on a volunteer, killing him.
In 2001, Hill complained of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination after being summarily dismissed. She said she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of her dismissal, which she claimed amounted to a mental impairment for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). In support of this assertion, Hill cited the Social Security Appeal Tribunal’s (SSAT) decision, which had accepted that she was suffering from PTSD and awarded her disability living allowance.
The tribunal, however, found that Hill had not witnessed the accident. In view of that finding and taking into account medical evidence, the tribunal concluded that she was not suffering from PTSD and, therefore, was not disabled. It did conclude, though, that Hill had been unfairly dismissed.
Decision on appeal
Hill’s appeal against the refusal of her disability claim was rejected by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). She appealed again to the Court of Appeal (CA).
Among other things, she argued that the tribunal was wrong to focus on whether she had witnessed the accident, and that it had not given enough weight to the decision of the SSAT, which she said was compelling evidence of her disability.
The CA dismissed the appeal. It held that the tribunal had taken into account all the relevant evidence and was right to conclude that the claimant was not disabled. In particular, it had been entitled to consider whether the claimant had witnessed the trauma, as without trauma, there could be no PTSD. Furthermore, the CA held that there was no rule of law that the tribunal had to follow the decision of the SSAT. The concept of ‘disability’ differs under the relevant statutes and the tribunal had to reach its own decision on the question of disability based on the evidence before it.
Although in many cases an employee who is receiving disability living allowance, or, for that matter, other incapacity related benefits, will also fall within the definition of a disabled person under the DDA, this case shows that the two do not automatically go hand in hand.