NHS made 'made no adjustments' before sacking disabled nurse

The Employment Tribunal has ruled that a nurse was unfairly dismissed because her employer made no reasonable adjustments to account for her disability. 

Ms McKenzie began working for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in 2010. 

At around the same time, she began living with her dementia-suffering grandmother and became her de facto carer. 

This personal responsibility had a negative impact on McKenzie’s own health, leading her to suffer migraines, stress, and anxiety. 

Throughout the course of her employment, McKenzie had more than 300 days of absence. 

She received her first written warning in November 2013 and an absence target was introduced, which she breached over the following months. 

An occupational health report from 2017 confirmed that providing care for her grandmother was the main cause of her stress and contributed to the “increased frequency” of migraines.  

McKenzie’s absences continued during the pandemic when she argued that the type of personal protective equipment she was required to wear, and being unable to carry a water bottle around because of Covid policies, meant she suffered dehydration which led to further migraines.  

In May 2020, McKenzie was dismissed with the Trust questioning whether her recent absences had really been due to migraines and stated that the PPE she had to wear was there to protect her.  

The dismissal letter read: “Having considered all the information … we have concluded that your sickness absence levels continue to be unacceptable and are impacting the ward and your team causing difficulties for your area.” 

The case went to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in McKenzie’s favour. 

It noted that University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust had failed to adjust absence targets to make allowance for those caused by McKenzie’s disability, adding that “a level playing field” hadn’t been achieved. 

Judge Ahmed concluded: “Put in simple terms, the claimant had disabilities which caused her to be absent from work and for which she was ultimately dismissed, if all of the absences allowed are taken up with disability-related matters, it leaves no room for any other legitimate absence.” 

A hearing to decide compensation will be set for a later date. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law. 

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