Grant Watson, an airworthiness surveyor, had worked for the Civil Aviation Authority for over 22 years and expected to stay there until retirement.
But when he was told his office in Weston-super-Mare was closing and he would have to move to Gatwick, his employment came to a sad and sudden end. Grant was unable to relocate because of his health and family circumstances, and the CAA dismissed him.
Prospect supported his case and an employment tribunal has ruled he was unfairly dismissed and subjected to unlawful disability discrimination.
At a preliminary hearing of the employment tribunal in January the judge held Grant was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act. The case then proceeded to a full hearing over four days in June.
The tribunal heard evidence from Grant, his former line manager, and from Emily Boase, Prospect national secretary. Stephen Marsh of counsel represented Grant at both hearings.
Grant’s case was that the CAA had not taken sufficient account of his health and personal circumstances. Despite the mobility obligation in his contract, counsel argued there were alternatives to dismissal that should have been positively explored.
As Grant’s work involved certifying aircraft in the South West and Wales, it was unreasonable to not consider a remote working pattern allowing him limited attendance at the office base in Gatwick, as had happened when other CAA regional offices closed.
The tribunal agreed with this. It held that enforcing the mobility clause in an “arbitrary manner”, in circumstances where the employee was saying he could not comply, was an unfair dismissal.
It went on to find the dismissal was also unlawful under the Equality Act. It was less favourable treatment for a reason related to Grant’s disability and the CAA had failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments.
The tribunal found his disability made relocation unfeasible and the dismissal was a consequence of this. It concluded it would have been “practical and reasonable” to enable him to work remotely or to consider other flexible working solutions.
Marion Scovell, Prospect legal officer, said: “The case demonstrates that employers should always consider alternatives to forced relocation, even where there is a mobility clause in the contract. This is particularly so where a worker is disabled and is unable to transfer.”