Warning to employers relying on occupational health reports

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By Richard Barker

Employers managing employees on sickness absence often turn to occupational health (OH) for guidance on whether an employee comes within the legal definition of a disabled person, but now need to be careful of unquestioningly relying on OH assessments.

The recent case of Gallop v Newport City Council [2013] EWCA Civ 1583 is a salutary warning to employers referring employees on long-term sickness absence to OH.

Mr Gallop was employed by Newport City Council from April 1997 until May 2008. During his employment, he was absent from work between August 2005 and November 2005 for stress-related illness, August 2006 and February 2007 for depression and then reactive depression and from April 2007 to February 2008 for anxiety and depression. Throughout the periods of absence, Newport obtained medical reports on Mr Gallop from its OH providers. While the OH providers accepted that Mr Gallop’s work-related stress developed into moderate-to-severe anxiety and acknowledged that he had been prescribed anti-depressants, they maintained that he did not meet the definition of a disabled person under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (now replaced by the Equality Act 2010). However, OH provided no reasoning for this conclusion…

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