Detective pressured back to office wins reasonable adjustments case

Metropolitan Police caseA Metropolitan Police officer who was forced to return to the office despite a heart condition has won his disability discrimination and harassment case at the employment tribunal.

Tarik Ahmed, who has worked for the Met Police for more than 22 years, has ischaemic heart disease, having previously suffered a heart attack. Stress and anxiety act as triggers for his condition and can exacerbate it.

Subject to regular reviews, Ahmed requested reasonable adjustments to work from home on a full-time, permanent basis to manage the symptoms of his heart disease and the triggers of his stress and anxiety.

The tribunal accepted evidence from the police service that there was no operational reason why Ahmed needed to attend the office having successfully undertaken his role from home for several years.

Relying on an unwritten policy, the Met refused Ahmed’s request to work from home and pressured him to go into the office against medical advice. The London Central employment tribunal found that the Met knew about Ahmed’s disability and the effect that stress had on him.

The judge found that attending the office carried the risk of Ahmed suffering a heart attack. Despite this, and seemingly as part of a wider push within the force to encourage staff back to the office, in May 2023 Ahmed faced continuous pressure which crossed the line and created an intimidating environment, amounting to disability-related harassment.

The tribunal panel unanimously found that the Met had failed to make reasonable adjustments by refusing to allow Ahmed to work from home in consideration of his disability and subjected him to unlawful harassment by pressuring him to return to the office against medical advice.

Ahmed said he hoped the tribunal’s decision would bring some much-needed change within the organisation and that no other officer would have to endure trauma like him.

“Common sense prevailed in the outcome, which proved that it is reasonable to provide a concession for disability and that the organisation is fully able to do so,” he said. “I am a living example of the Dame Casey Review, with which many within the police and the public are familiar.”

Ahmed’s solicitor, Colin Davidson, senior associate at Cole Khan, said: “This is a significant win for the right to work from home for disabled officers and recognition that the police are not beyond the scope of the Equality Act.

“It sends a strong message that an outright ban on the right to work from home is illegal and will not be tolerated by the courts. I am delighted that after a long fight, and a significant toll on my client’s health, justice has prevailed.”

“The first image of a police officer is one patrolling the streets. However, substantial intelligence work happens behind the scenes. Much of this is necessarily done from offices or home and it was accepted by the Met there was no operational need for Ahmed to attend the office to carry out his role.”

The Casey review in 2023 found that disability discrimination was the most frequent claim brought against the Met Police in 2017-18 and 2021-22 and that there was “no willingness to learn from these cases or reflect on the signals about the wider toxic or bullying culture”.

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A one-day remedy hearing in July will determine Ahmed’s compensation award.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said it was aware of outcome of the hearing and is awaiting the written judgment before considering its position.