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Council manager with rare dizziness condition wins £9,000 in wrongful dismissal claim

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Miss A Crowther v Northamptonshire County Council Alison Crowther, the former manager of Everdon Outdoor Learning Centre, near Daventry, was employed in the role from January 2013. She went off sick in April 2018 and never returned to full-time work there.

She had been diagnosed with a rare condition which her specialist said they had only seen twice in their career. Spontaneous intracranial hypotension caused her “blinding” headaches, balance problems, dizziness and physical weakness. An employment tribunal heard she would have spells of incapacity but could have “good days”.

She carried out voluntary desk-based work, which she said was good for her mental health. Her NNC manager carried out periodic meetings with her but Ms Crowther sick pay expired in October 2018. She continued with the desk-based duties.

Ms Crowther’s ophthalmologist said she was about 80% recovered from the illness in March 2019. She formulated a phased plan in April 2019 to resume work and sent details to her manager. But she only received a comprehensive response from the manager nearly a month later, despite there being a “clear need for urgency”, according to Judge Jeremy Lewis KC.

In June 2019, Ms Crowther accused NCC of further delay and filed a grievance that it was breaching her contract because she could not earn a salary. She said the delay had “badly damaged” her mental health and confidence. When offered a meeting by her manager, she said she did not feel well enough to go.

She resigned later that month. Her manager denied any “deliberate intention” to delay Ms Crowther’s return to work and said she wanted to ensure it was safe for all involved. The judge said the NCC manager “allowed [the case] to drift” and that the lack of urgency shown amounted to a “serious failure in management”.

He found the council had failed to make a payment in lieu of annual leave after Ms Crowther’s employment ended. WNC must pay £1,245.92 for that claim. She also won the case of wrongful dismissal and WNC must pay £7,664.52.

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