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Government department criticised for ‘slavishly’ following absence policies without considering reas

A disabled woman was discriminated against when she was unfairly dismissed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The employee had declared on a health questionnaire that she was on “antidepressants and migraine blockers”. She had a day off with a migraine, then a further three days sick which was unrelated. The DWP triggered their absence management procedures for employees within their probationary period. This gave managers the discretion to consider a written warning for four or more days off sick, allowing dismissal after any further absence during the probationary period. When she had a further day off with a migraine, she was dismissed, despite the policy saying it did not include absences due to a disability.

The tribunal held that the DWP had acted in a “perverse” manner when handling her disability and had “failed in their duty to make reasonable adjustments” under the Equality Act.

This is a warning to employers not to be a slave to policies when a degree of flexibility is reasonable.

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