22 December 2016 #Employment
Psychiatric illness, such as depression, may come as a consequence of unfair or discriminatory treatment by another employee or their employer. In Hampshire County Council v Wyatt, the EAT held that such injury does not have to be evidenced by expert medical reports (although it is strongly advised).
The Claimant, a carer for the Respondent Council, was suspended following disciplinary allegations. The suspension meeting and the way the suspension was communicated were found to be not only discriminatory but to have also caused or contributed to the Claimant’s depression. After the Claimant’s suspension was lifted, her failure to return to work due to her depression caused her to be dismissed (on the grounds of capability).
The Claimant brought a personal injury claim alongside her discrimination claim in the ET, but had no expert medical reports in support of her injury. The Tribunal found that evidence from the Claimant, her witness and Occupational Health reports were sufficient to prove her case and she was awarded damages for personal injury caused. The EAT rejected her employer’s appeal, stating there was no absolute principle for expert evidence to be presented. The EAT did however state that the absence of expert reports could result in reduced or no awards, so it is advisable to obtain such evidence.
As well as giving a useful reminder to employers that they should always consider if their conduct could be discriminatory and to investigate thoroughly any allegations (especially where an employee’s ill health may be an issue), the case highlights that an employee may not always need medical evidence to prove personal injury. Claimants would of course be advised though that the absence of expert medical evidence could severely weaken their case.