Tribunal | Employee wins £130,000 after manager left him out of WhatsApp group

Employee wins £130,000 after manager left him out of WhatsApp group

A plumber has won £130,000 after being left out of a company WhatsApp group while taking sick leave.

Mark Brosnan, a plumber for Coalo – a facilities management firm owned by Hounslow council -claimed he was excluded from a WhatsApp group chat set up by his manager while off sick.

The group chat was reportedly used to ”communicate important safety information”. As a result, a judge has ruled that leaving Brosnan out of the group was an ‘unfavourable act’ and unjust.

The tribunal heard that Brosnan suffered from back issues in 2019 and took 15 days of sick leave. He was then called to an occupational health assessment where it was decided that his employer would need to make safety adjustments, including lumbar support. However, these recommendations were ignored by his employer, the judge heard.

Brosnan went on to tell the tribunal that he experienced further injuries, such as the discs in his lower back being impacted, which happened as a result of not implementing safety recommendations for him, and for getting him to do tasks he hadn’t been trained to do.

Brosnan was called to another meeting after receiving a grievance report where he discovered he had been left out of a WhatsApp group due to his absence. At this point, Brosnan didn’t receive a response to his grievance and so left the company and was not given full sick pay.

As a result, he was awarded £134,411 in compensation for the company’s conduct and for not helping Brosnan return to work effectively.

Acknowledging illness adjustments

Employers need to acknowledge and accommodate adjustments for an employee's illness for several compelling reasons. There is a legal obligation to acknowledge an employee’s illness, as failure to do so can lead to legal consequences, such as the case above. Some illnesses are considered a disability, so if employers aren’t being accommodating, this may also breach the UK’s Equality Act.

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Also, acknowledging and accommodating illness-related adjustments fosters a more inclusive and diverse workplace. It demonstrates an organisation's commitment to creating an environment where all employees, regardless of their health condition, can thrive. This, in turn, boosts morale and productivity while reducing turnover.

Even though making adjustments may seem like an arduous task for employers, it’s important to remember that it’s in the best interest of employers to do so. Accommodating employees' needs may require initial investments, but it often prevents more significant costs associated with absenteeism, rehiring, training new employees, and in this case, legal compensation. Ultimately, healthy, supported employees are more likely to stay with a company and contribute positively to its success.

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