Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In Collinson v Dr Michie & Others (t/a Blacketts Medical Practice ET/2501780/2018) an employee’s associative disability discrimination claim succeeded when her employer insisted she be available to cover sickness absences at short notice because they were worried about her having to care for her disabled twins.

The facts in Collinson v Dr Michie & Others (t/a Blacketts Medical Practice)

Ms Collinson (the ‘Claimant’) was employed by Blackett’s Medical Practice (the ‘Respondent’), a GP surgery, as a receptionist.  She worked on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  She had also qualified as a phlebotomist and would take blood samples from patients.

The Clamant fell pregnant and had twins who were born prematurely and had significant heath issues. Both were accepted by the Respondent as being disabled.  

In November 2017 the Claimant asked for a meeting to discuss her returning to work in February 2018.  She outlined her request and was told ‘don’t worry Stacey, if we can’t accommodate your request we’ll give you time to find another job’.  On 21 November the Claimant submitted a request for Mondays and Wednesdays 8am-5pm.  She was invited to a meeting on 8 December to discuss her request and began to ask about when she could do her phlebotomy clinic, but before she could finish her question, Mrs Turner, a member of the senior manager team said there was no room available for her to do it in.  The Claimant was then asked if she would be able to provide holiday and sickness cover at short notice, even though she had not been required to do the latter previously.  The Respondent was effectively asking the Claimant to guarantee her availability to cover unexpected sickness absences at short notice. The Responded expected the Claimant to be as flexible as everyone else despite her twin’s ill health. The Claimant responded to say that she would be available some of the time, but could not guarantee every time.

The Respondent refused the Claimant’s flexible working request without even considering whether other employee’s hours could be changed to accommodate the Claimant’s request.  Their refusal meant the Claimant would no longer be able to work at the Respondent.  The Claimant appealed the decision on 17 December 2017.  By doing so she was making a protected act. 

The Respondent took advice from Peninsula who recommended an alternative arrangement should be suggested to the Claimant with a review date.  Peninsula also advised that the Claimant’s position regarding sickness cover was reasonable. 

A meeting took place on 26 January to discuss the report provided by Peninsula.  The Claimant was advised that the flexible working request would be granted on a temporary basis until the end of April and then reviewed.  She was offered a phlebotomy clinic on a Friday, despite the fact the Respondent knew she was unable to work that day.  On 29 January 2018 she e-mailed to accept the new hours, but she did not agree to the Friday phlebotomy clinic.  The Respondent then wrote to the Claimant formally setting out the new working pattern and stating ‘should this arrangement have a detrimental effect on the operations of the organisation, it may be necessary to review the situation earlier.’

The Claimant was suffering from stress, anxiety and panic attacks because of the situation at work and was signed off sick for 6 weeks from work.  On 27 February the Claimant received her payslip and noticed she had been paid based on a 14-hour week.  Because she had rejected the proposal when told it could be brought to an end at any point, she understood her contracted hours remain unchanged.

On 1 May the Claimant raised another grievance, which was not upheld by the Respondent.  The Claimant appealed but refused to attend the appeal hearing as it would cause her further distress.  On 4 September she emailed the Respondent her resignation.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Claimant’s claim of constructive unfair dismissal was upheld.  The ET said that the requirement that she work whatever hours suited the Respondent and be flexible was capable of amounting to fundamental breach of contract which entitled her to resign. 

Her unlawful deduction of wages claim also succeeded on the basis that it takes a contract to vary a contract.  As there was never a consensus reached as to the new terms the prior contracted hours remined unaltered.

Indirect sex discrimination.  The requirements (a) for the Claimant to work her pre maternity leave contracted hours at times and on days which best suited the practice and (b) be able to cover shifts both for holidays and, at short notice, sick absence of the staff were PCPs which placed woman at a particular disadvantage because it is an established fact that they are more likely to need to work at times to suit arrangements they can make for childcare.  The PCP’s put the Claimant at a disadvantage.  The Respondent was unable to show that the PCPs were a proportionate means of achieving its aim of ensuring good patients care.  Intrinsic to this decision was the fact that the Respondent did not even ask the Claimant’s co-workers whether they would be able to swop shifts to accommodate the Claimant’s flexible working request. 

Associative disability discrimination. This claim succeeded.  The ET held that the Claimant had shown primary facts from which they could infer that the Respondent subconsciously assumed the Claimant would be unreliable as well as inflexible because her children were disabled.  The reason why they acted as they did was because of assumptions they made about the twin’s particular disability. 

The Claimant’s claim of failure to deal with a flexible working request was time barred and therefore failed.  Her direct sex discrimination claim also failed as the ET said there would have been no different treatment of a male employee with disabled children who had similar childcare problems than there was of the Claimant.

The pregnancy/maternity discrimination claim also failed as none of the detriments the Claimant was exposed to were because of any of the matters set out in section 18 of the Equality Act 2010.  Her pregnancy and maternity leave in itself did not trouble the Respondent at all.

Finally, the Claimant’s victimisation claim was dismissed.  The ET held that the Respondent had not subjected the Claimant to a detriment. They could not find any acts or omission on the part of the Respondent which arose out of the Claimant making allegations of discrimination in her grievances.

Our solicitors’ views on the case of Ms Collinson v Dr Michie & Others (t/a Blacketts Medical Practice)

Sacha Barrett, a Senior Associate in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case:”This case is of interest because the Claimant was relying on the disability of her children to successfully bring a claim for disability discrimination.  The Disability Discrimination Act does not, on its face, apply to associative discrimination.  However, the ECJ held in in 2008 that the effect of the relevant directive was to outlaw such discrimination and words were added to the DDA to achieve that end”

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Ms Collinson v Dr Michie & Others (t/a Blacketts Medical Practice (ET/2501780/2018) can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry

    Testimonials

    4.80 Average

    371 Reviews

    Jonathan L

    The service I received was friendly and professional. I appreciated the timely communications and Mel was always available for any questions I had. I'd definitely recommend Redmans and will use them in a heartbeat should the situation arise again.

    Posted 4 days ago

    Glyn B

    Provided a great service, covered all my requirements

    Posted 4 days ago

    Fidel A

    Redmans Solicitors recently helped me navigate a recent employment termination settlement agreement. Chris Hadrill is very professional and you will be in good hands with him. I score Redmans 4 out of 5 because things had to move fast and felt the team member assigned to my case wasn't very responsive at times. Having said that, I was very happy with the outcome and have no hesitation in recommending their services.

    Posted 5 days ago

    Nigel A

    Chris Hadrill is hugely impressive - the right blend of assured calm and savvy professionalism. I've already recommended him to friends and family.

    Posted 6 days ago

    Matt O

    I was hugely impressed with the ease of being able to work with Redmans Solicitors and their professional approach. Mel was really clear around the process, and costings required and I felt comfortable throughout. I would certainly recommend.

    Posted 6 days ago

    Bryan G

    Great response, and also happy to assist

    Posted 6 days ago

    David L

    I was made a settlement offer by my employer to terminate my emplyment early. Redmans helped me understand the offer, and ensured that it was fair for someone in my position. They made a very stressful situation much easier. Excellent service.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    I can highly recommend Redmans. The service was professional and prompt and I would not hesitate to use them again. Thanks

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    Overall I am satisfied with the performance from Redmans. The reason I have given 4 stars is that I had quite a lot difficulty in contacting the representative which was initially nominated for me. However, when I contacted Chris instead, he was excellent over the phone and secured a great outcome in short order. I would recommend Redmans Solicitors.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    Chris and Redmans were a great help. Effective and efficient, quick response from my first enquiry and then straightforward and attentive throughout with ultimately a positive outcome. I will use them again and recommend them.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Marie P

    Great service, quick responses, good advice and all in a no nonsense, no jargon manner. Would definitely recommend.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    Rana was amazingly thorough and professional!

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    I am extremely happy with the legal advice I was provided with. My case was resolved to the best of my expectations. Thank you very much for your professional help.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Shahzad R

    Chris and his team were excellent. They provided sound advice and consultation that resulted in more cash than was offered. Would definitely recommend.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Sanjay B

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mel Chin, for all her support during my settlement process. Where she provided a professional service and was understanding. I would confidently recommend Redmans Solicitors to my friends and family. Thank you and wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Paul O

    Excellent response time and communication during my dealings with Redmans

    Posted 1 month ago

    Gil T

    I don’t normally write reviews, but thought it was time on this occasion. Just wanted to say that I highly recommend Redmans - especially Rana Tandon, who helped me navigate around my employment contract. Rana was meticulous and thorough and all over my needs. Would I use Redmans again ? ..absolutely

    Posted 1 month ago

    Stephanie D

    Very thorough and professional service. I was very nervous about my employment case, as I had never dealt with anything like it before. However, the solicitors who handled my case made sure I understood everything. I was never kept in the dark and Redmans kept me constantly informed about what was going on with my case. I would definitely recommend Redmans Solicitors

    Posted 1 month ago

    Richard S

    Chris and Sacha were great throughout the entire process. Chris was very helpful once the initial discussions with my company began and before we agreed there was a case. Sacha was very responsive, patient and helpful throughout ensuring I felt I had the right information to make the best decision on next steps. A close friend and wife have both used Redmans in the past few years for unfair dismissals and the service continues to be first-class and I would strongly recommend them again. They definitely help reduce the anxiety that comes with uncertainty around new processes and situations. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Jianya

    Very nice and patient went through the whole document with me.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Susan L

    Very helpful and led me through the redundancy process.

    Posted 1 month ago