Victory for disabled woman

A DISABLED personnel officer has been awarded almost £7,000 in compensation after an employment tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed.Crohn's disease and chronic asthma sufferer Patricia Barnes, from Ipswich, was made redundant by Ipswich-based engineering firm Crane Limited in September 2001 after 24 years' service.

A DISABLED personnel officer has been awarded almost £7,000 in compensation after an employment tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed.

Crohn's disease and chronic asthma sufferer Patricia Barnes, from Ipswich, was made redundant by Ipswich-based engineering firm Crane Limited in September, 2001 after 24 years' service.

Mrs Barnes claimed she had been unfairly dismissed because her bosses had become annoyed she had been forced to take a lot of time off work due to her disabilities.

She also said a personal grievance between herself and head of human resources at the company, Steve Whiteley, had contributed to the decision to make her redundant.

At the hearing, representatives of Crane Limited categorically denied Mrs Barnes' dismissal had anything to do with her disability or the time she had taken off sick.

But the tribunal panel found bosses at the firm had "fallen over backwards" to accommodate Mrs Barnes and had been sympathetic towards her difficulties.

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It added there was absolutely no evidence to suggest the respondent's behaviour pointed to a policy regime or practised a culture of disability discrimination.

Although the panel ruled Mrs Barnes dismissal had nothing to do with her disability, sickness record or her difficulties with Mr Whiteley, they found the way she had been selected for redundancy had been unfair.

The board ruled proper assessments of staff roles to identify the best candidate for redundancy had not been carried out. Instead Mrs Barnes was simply made redundant and her roles shared out between middle management. She was awarded £6,576 for loss of earnings and £250 for the loss of her statutory rights.

She has now been certified unfit to work and is in receipt of incapacity benefit. Mrs Barnes is also undergoing a new regime of drugs which she hopes will allow her to return to work in the future.

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