Mr Hermosa Mateos, a Kitchen Manager from famous chain ‘Beefeater’ who was dismissed for food safety failings has been found to be discriminated against on grounds of his disability, an employment tribunal has ruled.
The Kitchen Manager suffered a ruptured bowel in November 2017 and did not return to work until May 2018.
It was advised by the company’s occupational health department that the Kitchen Manager should return to work on a phased basis. This would include easing him back to work on his return and avoiding heavy-duty tasks such as lifting. Furthermore, the same department noted he should be treated as having the protected characteristic ‘disability’, under the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Mateos returned to work and began working the suggested reduced hours. However, after a change in management at the branch where he worked, he was put back to working his usual 48-hour contract. This change was implemented without a review of his performance from his phased return.
To make matters worse for the Kitchen Manager on his return to his ‘usual’ hours, suspension of a colleague meant Mr Mateos was actually working well beyond his 48 hours. This caused his pain to worsen, and he began taking more medication to cope with the increase in hours he was faced with.
This, he claimed, affected his ability to remember to do all the food safety checks that were required and had an impact on the speed at which he could do them. Although he did express his difficulties with the management at this branch, the matter was never further discussed or resolved.
After being called into a meeting in August 2018 about his food safety failings, he was subsequently suspended and dismissed in the following month.
Most importantly to this scenario, the Tribunal ruled that there was a failure on the part of the Beefeater Restaurant; as there was no specific reason as to why they could not find proper temporary cover for the suspended colleague. Instead, they had required a ‘disabled’ employee (for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010) to work almost 20 extra hours over those contracted to him.
Disability and the law
It is important for those in the Hospitality sector, where turnover of staff is high, to ensure they have fulfilled their ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’ to employees who are classed as having a ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010. This is anyone who has a ‘physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities’.
I have summarised FIVE tips on the ‘Duty to make reasonable adjustments’ below:
- Employers should exercise caution when deciding whether or not to protect a disabled employee’s salary level if he or she agrees to move to a lower-graded post.
- Poor memory may trigger the duty to make reasonable adjustments. The Tribunal has ruled- it was an employer’s duty to consider the adjustment of allowing an employee with a poor memory (caused by a disability) to record meetings was triggered.
- Employers should consider making all reasonable adjustments to enable an employee’s performance to improve, before instigating formal performance reviews.
- Reduction in hours can be a reasonable adjustment.
- An expectation to work late can trigger the duty to make reasonable adjustments. When staff will work late, employers should tread carefully when it comes to expecting disabled workers to do so.
How can we help you?
For further advice or information about the risk of disability discrimination or generally about handling disability within the workplace, get in touch with us to see how we can help you.
Likewise, if you are an employee reading this article for guidance on your employer’s obligations and you feel you have been treated unfairly – get in touch with us for a conversation in confidence for support and advice on your legal position.