Iain worked in the Triad in Bootle, most recently as part of the Benefits & Credits (B&C) section. He was dismissed at the end of June through the department’s attendance management policy. The union contends that the failure to make reasonable adjustments and the decision to dismiss amount to discrimination arising from disability.
Iain suffers from depression, and all of his absences were related to this condition. Hardly at record levels, they were in fact tapering off because of his own efforts to better manage his condition. In spite of this a single period of absence, provoked by the side effects of a reduction in medication which he had agreed with his doctor, was used as justification that his absences were ‘unsustainable’ and that he had to go.
Iain’s rep had argued that a much greater portion of his absences, if not all of them, should disregarded by the poor attendance hearing since they were disability related. Management refused to even disregard a full quarter of Iain’s absences, despite every one of them being as a result of his disability and his Occupational Health referral stating that he was likely to be covered by the terms of the Equality Act 2010 which requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.
PCS will be pursuing an Employment Tribunal in the event that HMRC refuse early conciliation through ACAS. However, the union is adamant that the employer shouldn’t let things escalate that far.
Phil Dickens, Iain’s union rep and the Bootle Taxes Branch Organiser, said:
Iain deserves to be reinstated, it’s as simple as that.
For senior management in some parts of HMRC, sick absence levels are nothing more than a target to be reduced at all costs. They can be quite brazen about it, proudly boasting of sickness going down when they’ve been able to sack people due to their disabilities. But we’re talking about human beings trying to earn a living while coping with a condition, not numbers on a spreadsheet.
This fight is for Iain, because he’s the one who’s lost his job. But it’s also for all of us, because if they can get away with it once they can get away with it again. The only barrier to that is us, as a workforce and as a union, refusing to put up with it.
As well as pursuing legal redress, the branch will be campaigning for Iain’s reinstatement through a variety of means, starting with a petition to B&C Director Nick Lodge.
You can sign the petition here.