A lecturer at BPP University has won a claim of constructive unfair dismissal against her former employers, having suffered from severe mental health problems.
Elizabeth Aylott who worked at the university for over a decade brought the claim against BPP.
She suffers from autism, which was not diagnosed until she resigned from the university and was signed off work by doctors for anxiety and depression. She also brought claims alleging direct disability discrimination and harassment related to her disability, though these did not succeed.
Aylott was an HR and employment law specialist at the university, where she started working in 2009. The mother-of-two became a widow in 2011. She also lost her father and saw her son become seriously ill during her time there – claiming that the university failed to notice warning signs of the lecturer’s struggles.
In a judgment handed down this month, Judge Timothy Adkin heard that Aylott’s boss Juliette Wagner asked her to work up to 60 hours a week and on bank holidays.
She asked another boss, Steven Shaw, to refer her to a medical professional but was rejected after he claimed that stress was ‘her perception’ and that working long hours like this was ‘normal’.
Aylott began to have suicidal thoughts and told the tribunal that she needed three glasses of wine to help her sleep and drank four to five glasses of gin and tonic every night to “self-medicate”.
Aylott said: “I believe I was treated differently because my issue was a mental health issue. I was relying on alcohol to support me.”
In further evidence, Adkin J heard that Wagner described her as “mad as a box of frogs but a good worker”. Adkin J said that these comments were inappropriate and unprofessional.
In giving his decision the judge said: ‘The claimant said that she had suffered a breakdown, felt overloaded and could no longer cope. She mentioned being a widow and raising two children. Shaw suggested that her feelings of stress were based on her perception. Shaw was of the view that managers working in excess of contractual hours was normal.
“He also seem to be of the view that the claimant was experienced enough to manage her workload.”
The full extent of BBP’s costs and damages will be determined at a hearing later this year.
Neale Turk Rochfort consultant solicitor Mohamed Bangura instructed Pump Court’s Heather Platt for Aylott. BBP University instructed Clerksroom’s Robert Jones.