Winckworth Sherwood

UK 200 2013 position: 94

The extent of an employee’s disclosure to his employer regarding disability issues

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), in the case of Cox v Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS), has upheld a decision that even though Mr Cox told his employer that he was suffering from bipolar disorder, because ECFRS asked for a definitive doctor’s diagnosis, which Mr Cox withheld, ECFRS was not reasonably expected to know (from a legal perspective) that Mr Cox was disabled.

As a result, ECFRS did not have to make any reasonable disability adjustments for Mr Cox and his claims for disability discrimination, as well as unfair and wrongful dismissal, failed. An employer is only under a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for an employee if it either knows or can be reasonably expected to know of the disability in question. Previous cases have shown that this threshold would be met when an employer receives a doctor’s report about the disability.

In this case, Mr Cox told ECFRS in a pre-medical questionnaire that he was taking antidepressants for mild depression, but had answered ‘no’ to the question ‘do you have any health condition or disability that affects your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities?’ …

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