Daniel Barnett’s of Analysis Gray v University of Portsmouth (Ian Wheaton counsel for the Claimant) : Objective Justification
Is it sufficient for a tribunal to say that a Respondent’s objective justification defence is “obvious”, in the context of the dismissal of an absent, disabled employee?
No, held the EAT in Gray v University of Portsmouth.
The Claimant worked as a Service Delivery Analyst at the university. He is autistic and also suffers from stress. The Respondent followed their 4-stage absence management process and were accommodating to the Claimant. But ultimately, following a long period of sickness absence, the Claimant was dismissed. His appeal was rejected.
He brought a s15 Equality Act 2010 claim for discrimination arising from disability. The tribunal held that the Claimant’s dismissal was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, that being the efficient running of the department.
The EAT held that the tribunal is required to carry out a critical evaluation of the Respondent’s justification. The tribunal must also demonstrate in its reasons that it has done so. It was not enough for the tribunal to find that keeping the Claimant’s job open would be “significantly disruptive” to the Respondent, without explaining why this was the case.
The evidence put forward by the Respondent provided several potential explanations as to why the Claimant’s dismissal was a proportionate measure, but the tribunal did not make clear in its reasons which explanation it accepted. The tribunal also did not make any findings about the level of disruption caused by the Claimant’s absence, nor about how his role was covered.
The case was remitted back to the same tribunal.