A recent case demonstrates the importance of implementing occupational health advice where possible and of dealing sensitively with employees with mental health issues via a holistic approach.
Following an altercation with his line manager, Mr Meiszner, Mr Flemming became very upset and experienced chest pains, following which he was hospitalised and later diagnosed as having had a heart attack.
An internal mediation was arranged between the two, during which Mr Flemming reportedly became distressed and stated that he was given an ultimatum that he would have to shake hands with Mr Meiszner before he was permitted to return to work. This resulted in Mr Flemming being hospitalised again.
Subsequent occupational health (OH) reports stated that a return to work was unlikely as Mr Flemming was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder.
The employer’s new HR Director sought to arrange further OH appointments and requested Mr Flemming submit sick notes. The terminology of the requests changed at this time to “reasonable management requests”.
Mr Flemming sent a letter to the company, stating their actions had caused him to contemplate suicide. The Interim HR Director acknowledged his mental health problems but found his letter unacceptable.
Ultimately Mr Flemming was invited to a disciplinary hearing for refusing to follow reasonable management instructions. Mr Flemming covertly recorded the meeting on his phone and during breaks the chair of the panel was recorded making many inappropriate comments.
Mr Flemming refused to attend a further OH appointment and was dismissed for gross misconduct. He then brought claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal found, despite the difficulty in managing Mr Flemming, there had been a failure to follow a fair procedure, thus Mr Flemming’s claims were justified, highlighting that the employer had not trained staff sufficiently, or pursued other options suggested by OH before dismissing Mr Flemming.
Balancing employee care and the needs of the business can be tricky, but employers should ensure adequate support and training is in place for all those involved with dealing with such circumstances.
For more information, please contact Gareth Edwards at award-winning law firm VWV. Gareth can be contacted on 0117 314 5220 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.