A Bolton teacher has won her appeal for unfair dismissal, sending the case back to a fresh employment tribunal to decide on compensation. Georgina O’Brien was head of IT at St Catherine’s Academy when she was attacked by a student in 2011. Following the attack, she was left shaken and went on long term sick leave later that year after being diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD. She was dismissed a year later on the basis that she was incapable of returning to work and complained to an employment tribunal, who found that her dismissal was both unfair and wrongful. An employment appeal tribunal overturned that ruling and ordered another hearing but now the Court of Appeals in London has ruled that the original tribunal had got it right and restored its decision of unfair and wrongful dismissal.
ELAS employment law consultant Jacob Demeza-Wilkinson says: “This case throws up a couple of issues. Firstly, it confirms that stress can and will be considered as a disability from day one in certain circumstances, and that it is highly important that with cases where an employee is suffering from stress, that an employer ensures that they have as much information surrounding the stress and it’s causes before pushing forward with any action.
“Secondly, it confirms what is already known, in that once an absence has continued for a significant period of time, 12 months in this case, then provided that an employer has taken into account all factors, has medical evidence which states there is no prospect of a return in the foreseeable future and has properly considered the impact of the absence continuing on the business, there is scope to dismiss an employee on the grounds of incapacity for work.
“However, this is a delicate area of the law and we would always advise consulting a legal adviser before embarking on a process such as this.”