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Case law suggests that stress can be considered a disability for a claim of discrimination

View profile for Abigail Martland
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Disability discrimination in universities

It has been reported that a claimant, who was dismissed from her employment, has been successful in pursuing a claim that the stress she endured constituted a disability.

It is understood that the case was brought by a claimant who asserted that she was suffering from stress and anxiety, after blowing the whistle on “Amnesty International designating of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, the status of prisoner of conscience”. It is reported that, despite the claimant having raised objections on the basis that Navalny had incited “hatred against Muslims”, the decision would advocate his release from prison.

It is understood that a preliminary hearing was held in order to establish whether the condition of stress and anxiety, would meet the requisite test for disability to be proven, pursuant to Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. The legal definition of a disability is as follows:

  • the condition must be a physical or mental impairment;
  • which is long term, and;
  • has a substantial effect on your day-to-day activities.

It is reported that the judge accepted that the decision made by the claimant’s employer in this particular case, had a “profound effect” on her and that her diagnosed condition of stress and anxiety had, and continued to have, an effect on her day-to-day activities. It is therefore understood that stress constituted a disability in the circumstances of the case, and the claimant was allowed to proceed with her claims of disability discrimination.

How does this impact claimants moving forward?

It has been suggested that this particular case will not open the ‘floodgates’ of litigation.

In practice, stress is a contributing factor to the decline in an individual’s mental health and is regularly seen by discrimination and employment specialists as being cited in disability discrimination claims. The decision in this particular case, however, indicates that a stressful incident(s) in the workplace, may result in an individual being rendered disabled as a result of the same.

It is important to note that each case is considered on a ‘case by case’ basis, and the test for establishing a disability remains the same.

If you are interested in receiving advice regarding a potential claim of discrimination, please call  0161 696 6170 so we can discuss your options and guide you through the process

How can a business deal with stress in the workplace?

As an employer it is important that you are aware of the potential signs of stress, and that you provide support to your employees where possible.

If you require assistance with adapting your policies at work, general information regarding disability discrimination or if you are in receipt of a complaint or potential / ongoing claim of discrimination, our specialist team may be able to assist you. You can contact us on 0161 696 6170 for guidance.