Case shows Equality Act applies even without a diagnosis
Employees experiencing work-related stress can potentially take legal action against their employers for disability discrimination, even without a formal mental illness diagnosis, according to a recent decision from an employment judge.
This decision arose from a case involving an NHS worker pursuing a discrimination claim against Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which covers the Gwent region in Wales.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment substantially affecting daily activities, lasting or likely to last at least 12 months.
In this case, the employee, Mrs. Phillips, lacked a formal diagnosis of mental ill-health, but Judge Robert Vernon deemed her disabled under the Equality Act.
The hearing had been held to decide whether Mrs. Phillips could be considered disabled under the Equality Act. If she had not been found the be disabled, she would not have been able to carry on with the claim for disability discrimination.
Medical records revealed consistent stress from February 2021 to November the same year, with fit notes indicating work-related stress.
Medical evidence showed adverse impact
Judge Vernon noted the substantial impact on Phillips’s life, which adversely affected her ability to leave the house, socialise, sleep
and concentrate. He emphasised in his judgement that a formal mental illness diagnosis wasn’t mandatory; what mattered was the significant and adverse effects on her day-to-day activities, over a prolonged period.
The Judge went as far as to say “even though there is no formal diagnosis of any medical condition I am satisfied that, given the other findings I have made, I can also make a finding that that is as a result of a mental impairment.”
The judge affirmed Phillips’s disability, allowing her discrimination claim to proceed to a full tribunal.
A formal diagnosis is not needed
The judgement highlights for employers that a formal diagnosis, for any underlying cause, does not have to have been made for the
Equality Act to apply.
Although cases are always decided on the facts relevant to each situation, the case does show employers that what matters most is the effect the impairment has on the individual, rather than a formal diagnosis.