How does an employer know if its employee is disabled?

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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that an employee’s self-diagnosis is not necessarily conclusive and that the absence of a definitive medical diagnosis in circumstances where the employee had withdrawn consent for the release of medical information meant that the employer did not know, and could not have reasonably been expected to know, that the employee was disabled (Cox v Essex County Fire and Rescue Service).

Mr Cox was employed by the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service as deputy finance director. In September 2008, Mr Cox suffered an accident and subsequently brought a personal injury claim.

In May 2009, the fire service raised concerns about Mr Cox’s ability to do his job. Mr Cox told the head of HR that he had severe depression and referred to the accident at work. Over the following months Mr Cox’s behaviour became increasingly inappropriate and aggressive. In August 2009 the fire service referred him to occupational health. The occupational health report did not consider that Mr Cox had a disability…

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