Tribunal rules stress can be disability without mental health diagnosis

stress disability mental healthAn employment tribunal has ruled that stress can be considered disability without a formal mental health diagnosis from a doctor.

At a preliminary hearing to discuss a case brought against Aneurin Bevan University Local Health Board, the tribunal panel in Cardiff found that claimant Mrs Phillips could be considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010.

Phillips is pursuing a claim for disability discrimination and complaints about deductions from wages and holiday pay.

For an employment tribunal to determine that disability discrimination has taken place, it must first consider whether the claimant’s impairment meets the definition of disability under the Equality Act: a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out daily activities.

For an impairment to be considered long term, it must have lasted, or is likely to last, at least 12 months.

Phillips told the tribunal that she experienced stress at work and dermatitis, which she argued could be considered disabilities.

Her medical records showed several fit notes declaring her unfit for work because of work-related stress. She claimed she was at times unable to leave her house and socialise with others as a result, and said her ability to concentrate or sleep had been affected.

The tribunal found that these were all substantial effects on her ability to carry out day-to-day activities and had lasted over a long period.

The judge said the law did not indicate that there was a requirement for there to be a formal diagnosis of a mental illness for a tribunal to determine that her mental health had an adverse effect on her work.

However, the tribunal found that her dermatitis could not be considered a disability. Phillips said the dermatitis resulted from an allergic reaction to latex gloves at work in 2016, and after the incident she used vinyl gloves and suffered no further reaction. However in 2021 she was told that she could no longer use vinyl gloves at work and was required to trial other types of gloves, one or some which caused her to suffer another allergic reaction.

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The tribunal found that the condition had some affect on her ability to do her job, but this was not substantial and could be managed by using other types of gloves.

The judge ruled that she could pursue a disability discrimination claim in respect of work-related stress, but did not make a finding concerning whether discrimination had taken place.