Landmark tribunal ruling paves way for loss of earnings claims

A landmark tribunal ruling has paved the way for unfairly sacked employees to claim for loss of future earnings even when claiming incapacity benefit.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal judged that an original employment tribunal was correct to rule that an employee known only as Mr Fox could receive loss of earnings despite being on incapacity benefits.

Fox, who suffers from a debilitating skin disorder and went on to contract Bells Palsy, was dismissed by Sheffield Forge Masters earlier this year.

The employer accepted that it told Fox his absence was unacceptable in light of his claimed disability. An employment tribunal held that Fox’s employer had discriminated against him on grounds of his disability, and failed to make reasonable adjustments for him.

The tribunal also made clear that the company failed to follow its own absence procedure, including its policy on disability-related absences, during the dismissal proceedings.

But Sheffield Forge Masters appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, insisting that as Fox had claimed incapacity benefit after his dismissal, he must have been incapable of working, and so should not have been awarded compensation for future loss of earnings.

This argument was rejected by the appeal tribunal, and Fox was awarded more than £40,000.

Siobhan Endean, head of equalities at trade union Unite – which supported Fox’s claim – said: “This decision should make it easier for dismissed and disabled employees who are fit to work but claiming incapacity benefit to win compensation when they are unfairly dismissed and discriminated against by their employer.

“This is a great victory both for Fox and Unite. Our victory means that this will set a precedent for similar cases in the future.”

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