Mental health and access to justice: what reasonable adjustments should be made?

Case name: Jade Anderson v Turning Point Eepro

A woman had mental health issues while she in the process of bringing a claim for sex discrimination. Her claim was successful, but she felt that her compensation was insufficient. She took her case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), and then to the Court of Appeal. She argued that the Employment Tribunal’s failure to make adjustments for her disability had caused the case to be badly handled, so that she received inadequate compensation. Her appeals to the EAT and to the Court of Appeal were unsuccessful.

Legal issue

What is the extent of courts' and tribunals' duties to make adjustments to their procedures to accommodate the needs of disabled parties?

Background

A woman working for a social care charity brought a claim for sex discrimination against the charity. This was successful.

The woman went on to have a breakdown after the tribunal had found in her favour but before the remedy hearing.

She felt that the compensation she eventually received was insufficient and didn’t reflect what had happened to her.

She believed that this was because her poor mental health and a lack of reasonable adjustments on the part of the tribunal meant the case wasn’t handled effectively. She took her case to the EAT and then to the Court of Appeal.

Why we were involved

Around one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. The failing of some courts to make suitable adjustments for these people can be a serious barrier to them seeking justice.

Our goal is to make sure that everyone feels they have access to the justice they deserve.

We hoped that a positive outcome to this case would see a change in the approach of courts, making them more open and accommodating to the needs of disabled people.

What we did

We had prepared to intervene in this case, which is when we provide specialist evidence or advice to help the court. In the end the court decided it did not need to hear from us to reach its conclusion.

What happened

The case was unsuccessful. The court did not find that any of the woman’s criticisms of the way her case was handled would have made a material difference to the outcome.

Who will benefit and how

While the outcome of the case was disappointing, there was merit in having participated in it because it helped raise the issue of the needs of disabled people in seeking justice. We intervened in a similar case, J v K & Anor, with a positive outcome. Between the two cases, we hope that the courts will get better at addressing the needs of disabled people. We will continue to support individuals who face barriers to seeking justice.

 

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