Long Term Sick

Rochford v WNS Global Services

In this case when Mr Rochford came back from sick leave his Company did not allow him to return to his previous role and reduced his duties, however his pay remained the same. Mr Rochford subsequently refused to do any work and was dismissed by his employer for gross misconduct.

An Employment Tribunal found that Mr Rochford’s demotion followed by a failure to indicate when he would return to his full duties, amounted to discrimination arising from disability.

However, his refusal to do work which was within the scope of his contractual duties and which he was fit to do, whilst on full pay and despite a number of warnings, had constituted gross misconduct.

Both the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), and then Court of Appeal, dismissed his appeal. The Court of Appeal emphasised that “it is not the law than an employee who is the victim of a wrong can in all circumstances simply refuse to do any further work”

Lessons in this case:

  • Where Occupational Health has recommended a phased return to work, it is important that a Company engages with the returning member of staff particularly after a long period of absence, to ensure a smooth return.
  • Companies should consider any reasonable adjustments in consultation with the member of staff.
  • Companies should also betransparent about the process of a phased return and ensure the member of staff is kept informed about the timeline for a full return to normal duties.