Work-related stress which is the product of unhappiness with a
particular situation may not of itself amount to a disability.
Mr Herry was employed as a design and technology teacher and
part-time youth worker. From May 2010, Mr Herry was signed off work
regularly and as of June 2011, he was signed off work entirely.
Whilst the earlier absences were attributed to physical injuries,
later GP certificates all referred to work-related stress.
He brought Employment Tribunal proceedings against Hillcrest
School and Dudley Metropolitan Council relating to 90 allegations
over a 4 year period. Among them were allegations that Mr Herry had
been discriminated against on grounds of his disabilities, which he
claimed were dyslexia and stress/depression.
The Employment Tribunal had made adjustments to take into
account Mr Herry's dyslexia, but found that he was not disabled
at the time to which his allegations related. Neither his dyslexia
nor his stress had substantial adverse effects on his ability to
carry out day-to-day activities. The Tribunal took the view that Mr
Herry's stress was "very largely a result of his
unhappiness about what he perceives to have been unfair treatment
of him, and to that extent is clearly a reaction to life
The Employment Appeal Tribunal similarly dismissed Mr
Herry's disability discrimination claims. The Tribunal's
decision to make adjustments had no bearing on whether either
condition was a disability given how different long-running
litigation is to Mr Herry's ordinary professional life. Also,
medical evidence from the relevant time showed Mr Herry was taking
no medication for his stress and Occupational Health had ruled him
fit to work.
The EAT ruled that, on the facts, stress caused by being unhappy
with a decision or colleague was not a mental impairment; Mr Herry
could not therefore be disabled. This follows an earlier case,
which ruled that tribunals should take particular care before
finding that a mental impairment exists if the only manifestation
of work-related stress was an unwillingness to return to work until
an issue is resolved to the employee's satisfaction. This is a
helpful decision for employers faced with the all-too-common
problem of a prolonged employee absence prompted by the onset of a
disciplinary or grievance process.
Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Council and Governing Body of
Hillcrest School UKEAT/0100/16 & UKEAT/0101/16
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