Vodafone has lost its appeal of a previous employment tribunal brought about by the Communications Worker’s Union on behalf of Vodafone sales advisor Andrew Winfield.
The case confirmed again that between 2009 and 2014 Vodafone failed to meet its legal obligations to make reason adjustments to Andrew’s role in relation to complications from his Type 2 Diabetes, before subsequently dismissing him.
CWU employment law expert Mick Lynch stated that ‘a major global employer has very convincingly been found wanting, with the Appeal Tribunal concurring that no reasonable employer would have dismissed an employee in these circumstances.’
A Vodafone spokesperson responded to Mobile saying: ‘Vodafone made extensive adjustments to accommodate Mr Winfield’s disability, including ensuring he had fixed shifts for the last two years of his employment. In this particular case however, the tribunal concluded that we should have gone further, though it did reduce his compensation by 25%.”
When asked why Vodafone chose to appeal in light of the judge’s strong initial judgement, the told Mobile: ‘We believed the Tribunal had over-stepped its remit to extend the ambit of a reasonable adjustment (i.e. reducing the performance standard required for a role, rather than making adjustment to help employees meet the required standard).’
When asked by Mobile whether they would be further appealing the judgement, Vodafone said that they have no intentions to appeal further as they accept that the court has ‘a wide discretion to determine what is reasonable in any particular case.’
Vodafone disability case
The undisclosed five-figure compensation figure will now include interest accrued while the appeal took place.
Following a decade of working at Vodafone’s Stoke-on-Trent site, in 2009 Mr Winfield was taken off a fixed shift rota designed to manage his Type 2 Diabetes. This was replaced by a flexible shift pattern that changed on a day-to-day basis.
This change caused hypoglaecemic attacks, which caused the previously high-performing staff member to miss performance targets and lose commission, for which he was disciplined. An initial tribunal led Vodafone to make changes to shift planning but Andrew’s target related dismissal in 2014 sparked a second tribunal.
Describing the case, Mick Lynch stated that, ‘one of the most striking things about this case was that several managers presented by Vodafone admitted they had received no training in disability issues or how to handle disabled employees.’
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments of duty for those with disabilities, this can include making changes to the building where the person works, changing the way in which work is done and providing equipment to make existing duties reasonable.
When deciding what constitutes a reasonable adjustment, Disability Action suggests employers should consider how effective the adjustment will be, how much it costs, how much it disrupts and whether it is practical for the business.