…After a 3 year, hard fought, legal battle that should never have been needed.
Yes, that’s right, the Bank could have resolved this case in a matter of days three years ago, but it chose not to, presumably thinking that BTU and the disabled member concerned would eventually give up.
The Bank finally came to its senses after we refused to drop the matter and someone, somewhere in the Bank finally said enough was enough and did the right thing. But it shouldn’t have taken multiple legal challenges and three years of unnecessary stress and upset for the member to get a fair outcome.
The success in this case represents a major step forward in our fight to protect the rights and interests of members battling against what is, after all’s said and done, a very powerful employer.
We first reported on the case in May 2019, although the case started long before that. The member has worked for the Bank for over 30 years. She was absent from work for a significant period of time, as a result of the stress she suffered following a bullying and harassment grievance made by her against her line manager. The stress left her with severe mental and physical symptoms which have had a substantial adverse effect on her day-to-day life ever since.
With our support, our member fought the Bank tooth and nail to get back to work in a new role away from her stressors, even though it was clear from the start that the Bank was not going to do much to help her find another job. She eventually got herself into a new role in a different team with an entirely different local management attitude, but it was a fight every step of the way. Despite this, with all the changes in the Bank, our member was living in a constant state of ‘absolute dread and fear’ that she would be forced to work with the stressors again.
Accordingly, she asked the Bank for an assurance that she would not have to work with two named people. We said that if she was asked to do so, because there was no other job available, she should be offered severance as an alternative. The Bank refused and we took the case to the Employment Tribunal.
A Unanimous Decision
The Employment Tribunal panel, consisting of an Employment Judge and two wing members (lay members who were not lawyers), came to the unanimous decision that Lloyds had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the disabled member of staff, despite her repeated requests for help over a substantial period of time.
The Bank appealed the decision (as did we, after a few legal twists involving procedural failings on the part of the Tribunal) and the case was heard by a higher court, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). The EAT Judge ruled in our favour, saying that there was no reason why the Bank should not give a disabled member of staff an undertaking that certain action would be taken if a particular set of events arose in the future. The purpose of the undertaking was to allow the member to work without fear that she would have to work with the two named managers again, which was reasonable given the member’s medical circumstances.
The Bank has now, finally, given the member the assurance she first sought three years ago.
Throughout this case the Bank behaved in such a way as to give the impression that the member and her circumstances were an irritating inconvenience that it wasn’t going to tolerate.
The Bank clearly didn’t want to do something out of the ordinary to help this employee, despite the fact it could have done so quite easily. The practical implications for the Bank of what we asked for were relatively minor compared to the massive positive benefits for the member’s mental health.
Lesson For The Bank
It should never have taken a three-year legal battle to get to this point. Our message to Lloyds Bank is clear: your staff are not ‘factors of production’, they’re human beings and the Bank has a duty to behave reasonably and to look after all staff, particularly the most vulnerable. It must learn from this case and not treat the vulnerable as an inconvenience.
Having a set of glossy policies doesn’t achieve much if they are not enforced. Lloyds seems to have no problem enforcing its policies on, for example, staff transacting on their own accounts but seems markedly less enthusiastic about enforcing policies designed to achieve softer HR objectives like ensuring the rights of disabled staff and working parents.
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Staff who are not members need to know that BTU is the only independent and effective trade union operating in Lloyds Bank. It is the only union that will go to these lengths and fight difficult cases to protect the rights and interests of its members.