Court rules in favour of nurse in case surrounding unfair dismissal

25 October 2019

An employment tribunal has unanimously voted that Mr J. Horn, the claimant and a senior nurse, had been unfairly dismissed by Grampian Health, the respondent and his employer, on the grounds of disability.

Mr Horn, a senior member of the nursing team, had his contract terminated by his employer during a phased return to work after being absent for an extended period of sick leave. The initial cause of the claimant’s depressive illness was attributed to feeling stressed at work due to staff shortages and there were several developments in his department that culminated in Horn being signed off as long-term sick.

In time, Horn went back to work on a phased return plan but then an anonymous claim was submitted that he had received payment for external work whilst signed off sick. A HR investigation maintained that Mr. Horn had not done anything wrong, but the accusation and investigation process only served to heighten his underlying condition. This resulted in a period of annual leave being taken and then a further period of absence in relation to sickness of 42 days.

The claimant was invited to attend a meeting, but sufficient warning was not given that it would be formal or that dismissal could potentially be one of the outcomes. A ten-minute meeting, which was not documented, resulted in Mr. Horn’s contract being terminated on the grounds of ill health.

 The Employment Tribunal (ET) ruled that Horn’s dismissal was unfair and that he had been subject to discrimination in relation to his disability. The verdict was cast on the basis that the meeting that was held involved ‘no meaningful discussion’ and no alternative options were provided to the claimant. It was also held that HR had not applied fair consideration to his disability when making the decision to dismiss him.


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