Council Worker Wins Record £4.6m at Tribunal

Claimant awarded ‘unprecedented’ payment after being sacked while on sick leave.

A council employee who was dismissed after taking sick leave for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the Grenfell Tower fire has been awarded a record £4.6m by an employment tribunal for disability discrimination and harassment.  


The employee worked for a Council in one of the London Boroughs for less than nine months. 

Prior to this, she was employed by an organisation supporting the response to the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. The employee was diagnosed with ADHD in 2016 and then PTSD in October 2017.

The employee met with the chief executive on her first day, explaining she had secondary PTSD as a result of her Grenfell work; and that she was undergoing counselling. The employee “started weeping and cried profusely” during the conversation, when she shared her experience of being evacuated from her home at night by the fire service.

Concerns about the employee’s performance were raised in a meeting and she was accused of not disclosing her ADHD in the recruitment process. 

The employee told her colleagues she was exhausted and stressed. The employee was concerned about the consequences of taking sick leave before completing her probation period. 

The employee had a panic attack with flashbacks. She began hyperventilating and was taken to hospital where she was assessed as being depressed, suicidal and traumatised. 

The employee was signed off work for a month, which was then extended. She received a letter informing her that her probationary period had been extended by three months.

The tribunal found that this letter had purposefully been doctored. It found the letter was backdated to make it look like the decision to extend her probation period had been made before the employee was signed off work for her mental health.

The employee subsequently received another letter, informing her she had been dismissed from the council. The letter outlined that the council did not think she would be able to satisfactorily complete her probationary period.

The employee submitted an appeal against her dismissal and grievance via her solicitors, asserting the employer had not raised any significant concerns about her performance or capability.

The tribunal ruled that the decision to extend the employee’s probation was “unfavourable treatment which was related to the claimant’s disability-related sickness absence”.

It added: “The claimant was neither warned that she was at risk of dismissal, nor given any opportunity to make representations before this decision was taken. Nor was she given any opportunity to appeal”.


In total, the tribunal awarded the employee £4.6m, and concluded that she had been harassed and discriminated against.  

It is understood that the employer is considering an appeal.


Whilst it is rare for damages to be in the region of £4.6m; this case acts as a reminder to employers of the potential consequences of neglecting their duty to accommodate employees with disabilities.

The importance of taking employee ill-health seriously cannot be underestimated, and it is important that sickness absence is managed fairly and appropriately.

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