Breast cancer survivor wins £30,000 in disability discrimination claim

Marketing manager Lucy Lyddall has won a discrimination claim after being dismissed without warning following treatment for breast cancer.

Lyddall won £32,351 in compensation from her employer The Wooldridge Partnership. 

She was hired in March 2021 and received her cancer diagnosis two months later. She took time off work for treatment in March, then more time off in July for further treatment and her wedding. 

When she returned to work in August 2021, the day after her short honeymoon, she was dismissed for poor performance. 

However, managers at the construction company did not criticise Lyddall’s work prior to this, leaving her “completely shocked” when she was dismissed. 

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Company director Charlie Wooldridge told the tribunal they didn't want to “send her negative feedback” to prevent her from being put under more stress when undergoing treatment.

The tribunal found Lyddall was not given enough feedback that her performance was unsatisfactory for her to improve her work before being dismissed. 

It concluded she was fired partly due to her medical condition, which is defined as a disability.  

Speaking to HR magazine Audrey Williams, employment partner at Keystone Law, said: “Employees are protected under the Equality Act as soon as they are diagnosed with cancer.  

“That protection remains even if a person is in remission – in law they are regarded as having a past disability and thus protection against discrimination.” 

Williams said employers have to make reasonable adjustments to allow for an employee’s disability before they take action related to it. 
“This could include adjusting targets, as well as supporting an employee with practical changes,” she said. “In this case it seems that no discussion about short comings took place with Ms Lyddall.” 

Lyddall was in her probationary period at the time she was dismissed and therefore exempt from contractual notice.

However Briony Richards, associate at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys said Lyddall still should have been given clear reasons for dismissal.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Mrs Lyddall was in her probationary period when her employment was terminated and as she didn’t have the two years’ service needed for most unfair dismissal claims, her employer may have felt confident not following a procedure.   

“Yet, in the absence of any process and without contemporary documentary evidence of a non-discriminatory reason for her dismissal, the tribunal concluded that her dismissal was, at least in part, because of her disability. 

“There is no minimum service requirement for bringing a discrimination complaint.”    

Richards said the employer should have kept records of poor performance and addressed problems at the earliest opportunity. 

She added: “Addressing performance issues can be particularly difficult where an employee has health problems, but it is in these circumstances that the risk of a discrimination claim is heightened and extra care must be taken.   

“HR should consider either raising the performance issues with the employee sensitively and, where appropriate, with the support of a medical report detailing any reasonable adjustments that may be needed, or else delay until the employee’s health has improved such that the concerns can be discussed with them.”