‘Heat of the moment’ resignations and dismissals
The EAT held that an Employment Tribunal erred finding that an employee’s resignation in the heat of the moment was really intended.Read more
This case saw substantial compensation being awarded to Ms Lynskey, who was employed by Direct Line from 2016 to 2022 and had enjoyed a “very good” performance rating before entering the menopause.
In 2019, Ms Lynskey started to experience brain fog and had difficulty concentrating, became less emotionally resilient and was prone to tears. She was diagnosed with a hormone imbalance and depression, and began taking anti-depressants to reduce the effects of her symptoms. Her employer was aware of this.
Following a client call that she handled badly, Ms Lynskey was transferred to a role that was deemed to be less challenging. Complaints still followed about her attitude and approach. She was refused refresher training, denied a pay rise and her performance rating dropped to “needs improvement”. This was, hitherto, unusual for her.
Ms Lynskey’s line manager refused to accept that her menopausal symptoms were the underlying cause of her difficulties and, instead, criticised her for stopping the anti- depressants. She received a disciplinary warning and her requests to take longer between calls and to reduce the overall number of calls were refused.
She went on to experience panic attacks and was eventually signed off as unfit for work. Her line manager suggested her sick pay should be stopped to “encourage her back to work”. She was entitled to up to 26 weeks’ sick pay, but this was suspended as her line manager felt she was “not helping herself”. This was despite a six-week fit note saying she was unfit for work.
Ms Lynskey raised a grievance and received 13 weeks’ sick pay that had previously been withdrawn. She remained unfit for work due to stress and anxiety and ultimately resigned in May 2023. She brought claims to the Employment Tribunal that she had been constructively dismissed and had been subjected to sex, age and disability discrimination and harassment.
Ms Lynskey’s salary was around £20,000 per annum. She was successful in her claims and received compensation of around £65,000 – made up of a hefty injury to feelings award, aggravated damages, interest and loss of earnings. Her line manager was singled out in the Tribunals’ judgment for a “wholesale lack of compassion and understanding”.
This is very much a live issue in the workplace. Employers should consider whether staff are aware of the impact that menopause can have in terms of overall health and wellbeing, but also performance and behaviour. The Tribunal in this case identified at least eight adjustments that could have been made to Ms Lynskey’s role to support her, but were not.
We would recommend seeking advice if you are unsure of your obligations, both medical and legal. Whilst menopause is not a protected characteristic for the purposes of the Equality Act, this case makes clear that the symptoms of menopause are capable of amounting to a disability and the employee should not be treated less favourably, or have a requirement unfairly imposed on them as a result.
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