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DWP employee dismissed for disability absences gets £30,000 compensation

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An employment tribunal has awarded more than £30,000 to a public-sector worker who was dismissed because of disability absences.

In Powell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a worker with 34 years’ service was awarded the money for discrimination arising from disability and unfair dismissal.

Ms Powell worked for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from 1980 until her dismissal for ill-health absences in 2014.

The DWP dismissed her after disability absences meant she exceeded her trigger point under the employer’s absence management procedure.

The DWP’s sickness procedure states that formal action will be taken against employees once they have eight days’ absence, or four spells of absence, within a 12-month rolling period.

Health problems meant that Ms Powell was frequently off sick. As some of her absences were related to a disability, her trigger point was adjusted from the usual eight to 12 days.

However, Ms Powell later went over her allotted 12 days’ absence by a few days, and she was dismissed.

This was despite the DWP’s procedures stating that “dismissal decisions should not turn on a disabled person going a day or two over their trigger point”.

In upholding Ms Powell’s disability discrimination claim, the employment tribunal held that the DWP should have given her more time to improve her attendance.

Ms Powell also won her unfair dismissal claim because of flaws in the DWP’s appeal stage. Her total compensation was £30,388.