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Disabled HMRC worker barred from applying for promotion wins disability discrimination claim

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Mr H Drummond v Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Hamish Drummond, from Dundee, was barred from applying for the more senior version of his existing role because he didn’t have a driving licence. An employment tribunal has ruled that Mr Drummond should have been allowed to apply for one of ten senior tax investigator jobs being offered by the public body in 2020. Mr Drummond, a tax office employee for 20 years, was encouraged to go for the role only to be knocked back before he could finish the application process.

Mr Drummond suffers from sudden onsets of dizziness and fainting, which in the past have led to him passing out and knocking his head. Doctors have been unable to identify a cause for his symptoms, but he was ordered to surrender his driving licence to the DVLA in May 2018 on medical grounds.

HR bosses said a licence was essential for the job, despite Hamish performing “very well” in his existing role without one. When he asked to be considered on his other merits, HMRC regional boss Paul Curry told him he wasn’t “substantially disadvantaged” by his fainting disorder and would not be put forward for the position.

However, an employment tribunal in Edinburgh has concluded that he should be considered to have a disability and tax bosses should have taken that into account before culling him from the recruitment process. Hamish told the panel that he was “extremely disappointed and aggrieved” at being unable to apply for the role, adding that it “amplified his frustration” at his medical condition.

Employment judge Melanie Sangster said: “It was not proportionate to simply decline the claimant’s application because he did not have a driving licence. Six additional Higher Officers with driving licences were employed to be based in Edinburgh, as a result of the recruitment exercise. There was approval for ten positions.

“If the claimant had been employed in the role, as well as the six who were offered the position, the respondent would have been in the same position in relation to the number of Higher Officer caseworkers who could drive. Denying the claimant the opportunity to be considered for the role was not proportionate in these circumstances.”

Mr Drummond was awarded a total pay-out of £20,179.83.

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