Workers sue bosses for disability discrimination after being told to return to office

Bosses are being sued for disability discrimination after telling employees to return to the office, lawyers have warned.

Employees have started bringing legal action and employment tribunals against their bosses following the end of the requirement to work from home.

These cases include disability discrimination cases for employees with long Covid, or those who are immunosuppressed who say that a return to an office would not be feasible.

Other cases include personal injury claims due to stress from having to commute into the office, and “associated discrimination” where an employee lives with someone who is immunocompromised and does not wish to come into an office.

The Telegraph understands that cases going through the courts include local councils, cleaning companies and outsourcing firms.

These cases are being brought either individually through lawyers, or through unions who believe that the case has a reasonable chance of success.

A legal source said: “Some people with long Covid are disabled under the Equality Act [2010], so there are considerations for employers around hauling people back into the office.

“If someone is feeling anxious about coming back and it causes them stress – you’ve got a personal injury stress claim there, potentially.

“If someone has long Covid or is immunosuppressed, and are regarded as disabled, then forcing them after they ask to work from home, which is a reasonable adjustment, could put an employer in a discrimination claim.

“Lawyers are already bringing those claims. It’s happening.”

However, many employers are choosing to settle cases outside of an employment tribunal, with those who do get a tribunal having to wait at least two years to get a hearing.

It comes after The Telegraph revealed that sackings for whistleblowing had reached a record high during the pandemic – more than doubling since 2014/15.

“What we’ve found is that most employers don’t want to be the first case in the system and are either settling those cases or trying to seek resolutions, but they are already there so it is a matter of time before a case goes to an appeal,” the legal source said.

“Having said that, employment tribunals are completely backed up as the Government hasn’t been funding it for many years.

“Judges and admin staff haven’t been replaced, and that’s created a backlog. The service tries its best but they have got an impossible task.”

A trade union source added: “The Government advice is no longer ‘work from home’ if you can – it’s now down to employers to manage that process.

“[The Government has] basically told employers and employees, ‘It’s not our responsibility now, off you go’.

“In organisations, there will be some kickback from people. There are going to be lots of people losing their jobs, or there are going to be lots of employers tying themselves in knots.”

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