£50K Pay Out for Dyslexic M&S Worker Sacked for E-mail Errors
- Employment Law
- 6th Jan 2023
A former employee of Marks and Spencer has successfully sued the company for over £50,000, after being made redundant without any reasonable adjustments being made to take account of her dyslexia. Julie Sabba, an Associate in the Employment team, considers the details of the case. Facts Rita Janu, a Clothing and Home planner […]
By Gareth MatthewsMLP Law
A former employee of Marks and Spencer has successfully sued the company for over £50,000, after being made redundant without any reasonable adjustments being made to take account of her dyslexia. Julie Sabba, an Associate in the Employment team, considers the details of the case.
Rita Janu, a Clothing and Home planner at Marks and Spencer (M&S), had worked for the company for more than 20 years when she was dismissed by reason of redundancy in July 2020. Ms Janu has dyslexia, which meant that she struggled to read and did not write lengthy emails due to her condition, preferring to use bullet points. Her dyslexia also caused issues with her ability to concentrate.
When going through the consultation process, Ms Janu was told, “Sometimes communications appear rushed and not thought through before you send.” Notes made by an M&S manager on Ms Jandu’s redundancy read: “Rita’s performance is good, but there have been question marks over her consistency and accuracy…Rita was ranked accordingly and makes more inconsistent errors than others on the team.”
Ms Janu felt that she had been treated unfairly due to her dyslexia and therefore alleged discrimination on the grounds of her disability.
When managing employees with a disability, employers are required to consider reasonable adjustments, to assist disabled employees in
limiting any detriments that may arise from their disability. One way in which this duty manifests is to require the employer to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage, for example by not counting any disability related absences in an absence management process.
Ms Janu alleged that the errors in her written communications, which were caused by her dyslexia, should have been ignored for the purposes of scoring her against the selection criteria, as such a reasonable adjustment.
In awarding more than £50,000, the Judge found that Ms Janu’s managers had ignored the impact that her disability had on her work and allowed the perception that she was rushing and prone to inaccuracies to negatively affect her score in the consultation process, when in fact, such issues were caused by her disability.
In doing so, the Judge held that M&S failed to implement a reasonable adjustment – to discount any effects related to Ms Janu’s disability – when assessing her score under the selection criteria.
In any process that may result in an employee being sanctioned or dismissed, the utmost care must be taken by an employer to properly consider and tackle any issue that may put that employee at an unfair disadvantage, including ameliorating the effects of an employee’s disability. It is often best to do this in consultation with the employee and with the input of medical advice, helping to avoid the risk of any claim that certain reasonable adjustments were not fully considered or that there was a failure to implement reasonable solutions.
This approach should also be bolstered by appropriate equality policies and tailored legal advice, to take account of the specific circumstances of individual cases.
About the expert
Stephen is the Owner of MLP Law and leads our Commercial, IP and Dispute Resolution teams which provide advice on all aspects of the law relating to mergers, acquisitions, financing, re-structuring, complex commercial contracts, standard trading terms, share options, shareholder and partnership agreements, commercial dispute resolution, joint venture and partnering arrangements, IT and Technology law, Intellectual Property, EU and competition law, Brexit and GDPR.
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