Jonathan Jones was dismissed by his employer, Jewson, five months after he suffered a stroke. He was the branch manager of their Cardigan branch and had worked for the company for 22 years. His employer relied on incapacity as a potentially fair reason for dismissal. Unfair dismissal law provides that employment may be terminated on the ground of ill-health incapacity if it becomes clear that the employee is unlikely to be able to return to work in the reasonably foreseable future.
Before he suffered his stroke Mr Jones had worked more than 60 hours a week and hd not taken his full holiday entitlement. His doctor said that if he was to return to work he would need to avoid stressful working conditions. However Jewson determined that no role at the company would be without stress and therefore took the decision to dismiss him. However, Jewson had failed to consider the matter from the point of view of disability discrimination and, in particular, had failed to make reasonable adjustments to allow him to return to work.
Jewson had offered just over £57,000 to settle the claim but the compensation awarded by the tribunal was £390,870. In the course of the case it emerged that Mr Jones’ GP had not stated that he would not make a full recovery; in fact, he made a full receovery after 11 months. It was also noted that in the two years prior to his dismissal Jewson had allowed 204 employees over six months’ absence and 64 employees over 12 months’ absence. This information came to light because the tribunal ordered it to be disclosed.
The case highlights how important it is for employers to consider the effects of discrimination legislation before dismissing an employee and, above all, the existence of a potentially fair reason for dismissal will not prevent a discrimination claim. It is also one of the largest awards of its type to have been made.