On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
If You Treat Me Like That Ill Have A Heart Attack
What has happened?
On 21st December 2021 news emerged of an Employment Tribunal decision against the Crown Prosecution Service. The Service admitted discriminating against the Claimant, a Senior Crown Prosecutor who commenced employment in 2004, on the grounds of disability. The Respondent decided to remove the Claimant from his duties and did not assist him to manage his condition after receiving seemingly persuasive evidence from an independent Occupational Health adviser.
What does it mean?
During the proceedings, the Claimant submitted evidence to the panel that in 2014 he had suffered a debilitating heart attack which rendered him unfit for work. In 2015, he reportedly collapsed at his home address and needed surgery. Following this second medical episode the Claimant tried to mitigate the risk of further incidents happening and made three reasonable requests. However, the CPS declined his requests to firstly work from home for two-days-a-week, secondly, lighten his caseload to achieve the aim of lowering his stress-levels and thirdly, to allow him to end his working day at 4pm so he could take his medication.
On the other side of the ledger the Claimant's claim was not completely successful as he submitted that he had been subjected to treatment which amounted to harassment and victimisation which appeared to have centred around three issues. Firstly, queries regarding the work rota. Secondly, the hot desk policy and thirdly remarks said by one of his workmates regarding the symptoms he was experiencing after under-going medical treatment. After considering the evidence submitted by the Claimant Employment Judge Hawksworth dismissed these aspects of the claim. The Judge helpfully summarised why the Claimant's claim was unsuccessful. These incidents were 'unrelated' to the Claimant's disability and the Claimant contributed significantly to them meaning that the Respondent was not completely at fault. In fact the Tribunal perceived him as 'overreacting' by using what was described as a 'confrontational' style when the CPS had communicated pointed out mistakes.
What impact may it have on the legal profession?
This case is a wake-up call from the perspectives of independent human resource departments, employers and employees. It appears to clarify the judicial thinking in cases involving work-related-stress. Firstly, law firms advising potential Respondents need to be advising them to tread carefully if they receive requests for reasonable adjustments from their staff. Employers have a duty under the auspices of respective sections 20 and 21 of the Equality Act 2010. The reserved judgment appears to strongly encourage employers to consider allowing its staff to work from home when reasonably possible, take action to reduce workplace stress by lowering caseloads to a 'reasonable level' and letting them finish early to take on board vital life sustaining medication.
It appears to guide staff on how they can handle constructive criticism and stressful workplace scenarios. Advisers need to manage the expectations of individual clients by firstly advising them to keep a good amicable working relationship with their employer, secondly, both parties need to remain professional avoiding being perceived as 'over-reacting'. When faced with criticism they should choose not to be confrontational and use it to improve their practice. This strategy will lower their blood pressure, heart rate and breathing to mitigate against the risk of suffering from poor health. To persuade the Tribunal to find in their favour and increase the reasonable prospects of success in similar claims advisers should ensuring that the Respondent's behaviour is based on the protected characteristic of the Claimant and present evidence in support of those claims.
Workplace mental health is a growing phenomenon. On 21st December 2021 the Health and Safety Executive released a Report entitled 'Health and Safety at Work - Summary statistics For Great Britain 2021'. It found that nearly one million people suffered from mental health related work-related stress. In context this made up over 50 percent of the work-related stress complaints. The HSE said a major contributory factor in these conditions was increasing caseloads,. The HSE suggested that employers consider openly communicating with staff if they are struggling and actively encourage a healthy work/life balance to mitigate against the risk of this happening again.
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SOURCES USED WHEN WRITING THIS ARTICLE:
 Hyde, J - CPS admits discriminating against barrister but cleared of harassment - 21 December 2021 - CPS admits discriminating against barrister but cleared of harassment | News | Law Gazette
 Mr T.Mohammed v Crown Prosecution Service - 26 July 2021 - Microsoft Word - Mohammed 3323914.16 RJR.docx (publishing.service.gov.uk)
 Section 15 Equality Act 2010
 Section 20 Equality Act 2010
 Section 21 Equality Act 2010
 Health and Safety at work - Summary statistics for Great Britain 2021 - Health and safety statistics 2021 (hse.gov.uk)
 Brown, J - Mental ill-health made up half or work-related illness in last year, research reveals - People Management - 21 December 2021 - Mental ill-health made up half of work-related illness in last year, research reveals (peoplemanagement.co.uk)