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Published 13 November 2018
Mr Brangwyn had worked as an occupational health therapy technician at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust’s hospital. He had a phobia about blood, injections and needles, which amounts to a disability.
Mr Brangwyn had to attend a meeting in the ward, where he did not usually work. Because of his phobia, he felt faint and physically sick. Following this meeting, he was signed off work with stress, An OH report advised that he would not be able to work on the ward, but that, if his job description and ward working issues could be resolved, he could return to work.
During the course of grievances and further OH reports, Mr Brangwyn was issued with several new job descriptions. However, none of these accurately reflected the reassurances that Mr Brangwyn was given by his employer about the adjustments that would be made to his role in order to allow for his phobia. Mr Brangwyn said that he could not return to work under the job description, and (following a sickness review meeting), he was dismissed. Mr Brangwyn claimed that the Trust had failed to make reasonable adjustments by requiring him to go onto medical wards, and that he had been unfairly dismissed.
The employment tribunal, and later the EAT, dismissed his claims. Although the Trust was criticised for not properly amending the job descriptions, the tribunal found that the requirement to go onto wards had effectively been removed during the grievance process.
Mr Brangwyn appealed to the Court of Appeal. The principal ground of appeal was that the tribunal had made a mistake in not treating the requirement of the various versions of the job description to go onto the wards as a practice, requirement or provision (PCP) in themselves, rather than considering whether Mr Brangwyn would, in fact, have been required to go onto the wards.
The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal, holding that the tribunal had been right to look at the interactions between Mr Brangwyn and the Trust as a whole, not just at the job descriptions. The Trust had made it clear that it would not be part of his duties to attend patients in the ward, and it had not therefore imposed a PCP which required, or would in the future require, Mr Brangwyn to do so.
While the employer was found not to have discriminated against Mr Brangwyn, the courts clearly felt that it had not covered itself in glory, and that its actions in not properly reflecting Mr Brangwyn’s role in the job description had caused him great stress. The Trust could easily have avoided this criticism and the cost of defending a case up to the Court of Appeal had it taken the simple step of properly amending the job descriptions.
Brangwyn v South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust
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