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There are many traps awaiting employers that dismiss a worker with a mental health issue. Gary Freer from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner explains how organisations can reduce the likelihood of being taken to an employment tribunal.
The widely publicised dispute between AA Insurance and its former chairman and CEO, Bob Mackenzie, raises interesting issues about the impact of mental illness on the law relating to dismissals.
Mackenzie was dismissed without notice after punching a senior colleague at a social event. It is not in dispute that the incident took place, but Mackenzie will argue in an employment tribunal that his dismissal was unfair because, among other things, he was suffering from severe stress, which had been brought on by months of overwork on the employer’s behalf. AA Insurance has issued a strongly worded statement, expressing its incredulity.
One must be cautious about making any comment about this case on the basis of a few press reports. It is far from typical of most unfair dismissal cases, because the main dispute will be about a very highly paid executive’s contractual rights to bonus, stock options and other valuable benefits.
It is, though, a vivid example of how mental health issues can make a seemingly open and shut dismissal case anything but simple, especially when the employee blames the employer for causing or contributing to the mental illness in question.
In 2004, after a long period of sickness absence and a long and difficult internal grievance process, Mrs McAdie’s employment was terminated