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The most expensive desk move ever…

7 December, 2017

A woman who was sacked after a disagreement over a desk move led to a lengthy period of absence with mental ill-health issues has been awarded £75,000 by a tribunal.

Ms Bannister was employed by HMRC since April 1990 as an administrator. In December 2013, her team was disbanded and she was told she would have to move floors.

Shortly after the announcement of the move, Bannister went off sick and phoned one of her managers to advise she was unable to cope with her life.

A few days later, she called back to advise she was an alcoholic and her mental health condition was preventing her from moving desks.

Bannister eventually agreed to return to work.

She did apologise for making the desk move into such a “big thing” but explained it was to do with her anxiety as she needed structure and to feel settled.

The next three years were a troublesome time for Bannister and the employer.

There were a number of periods of absence which resulted in a written warning and Bannister was sent to occupational health who confirmed she was fit to work.

In March 2015, Bannister was signed off work on long-term sick by her GP for alcohol dependence, anxiety and depression and she did not return.

In April 2015, Bannister was consulted whilst off sick regarding a further desk move.

Bannister protested but was told that the move was going ahead.

The supervisor organising the move told her he had “no interest” in her issues.

Bannister was dismissed in January 2016 and she lodged a claim of disability discrimination.

The Tribunal determined that HMRC had failed to make reasonable adjustments – such as allowing Bannister to work at her old desk for a short period of time while she adjusted to the move on a phased basis.

The tribunal found that HMRC had ignored Bannister’s significant and evidenced mental health issues and she was awarded £75,294.89, including £38,000 for pension losses, £17,152.22 for lost earnings and £15,000 for injury to feelings.

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