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Nurse wins unfair dismissal claim after being sacked for taking too many days off sick

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Ms CC McKenzie v University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust Caroline McKenzie was a senior nurse, who had worked for her NHS trust for more than a decade. From around August 2010, the panel was told Ms McKenzie began living with and caring for her grandmother who suffered from dementia. Becoming her grandmother’s ‘de facto carer’ took its toll on Ms McKenzie’s ‘stress and anxiety levels’, the tribunal heard.

Around 2018, Ms McKenzie’s grandmother was diagnosed with ‘inoperable’ cancer. Ms McKenzie began taking antidepressant medication and reduced her working hours. She explained to bosses her difficulties in balancing her work and home life, as well as ‘managing her own mental health’ during a capability meeting in April 2019.

In September she began a long-term absence due to anxiety and depression until January 2019. She attended another absence meeting in April when she was issued another written warning and set new absence targets. However, the tribunal heard she suffered more migraines and was absent for 19 days between June and November.

Her first written warning was in 2013 and by the time she was dismissed in a letter sent on May 29, 2020, she had taken almost 300 days off sick. In the hearing, which began in March, she successfully argued she was essentially sacked for having a disability. The official judgement by the tribunal said: “The complaints of discrimination arising from disability and a failure to make reasonable adjustments both succeed. The claimant was unfairly dismissed. The issue of remedy is adjourned.”

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