Dr Ali worked as a GP for the Bedford Family Practice (the Practice). He went on long-term sick leave following a heart attack and his ongoing heart condition was accepted to be a disability for the purposes of the EqA 2010. A medical report confirmed that it was unlikely that Dr Ali would ever be able to return to work full-time, but advised that he could return on a phased, part-time basis. He then suffered a shoulder injury and was signed off work for a further six weeks.
On the expiry of that certificate Dr Ali was dismissed by the Practice with immediate effect on the ground of capability. Attached to that letter was a document headed ““, the first reason given being Dr Ali’s inability to return to full-time work and the document then going on to explain why the adjustments proposed to his duties were not feasible.
Dr Ali brought claims of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. An employment tribunal held that his dismissal was procedurally unfair because of the Practice’s failure to consider his return to work on a part-time basis. The tribunal rejected Dr Ali’s disability discrimination claims and concluded that while his dismissal amounted to unfavourable treatment, and arose in consequence of his disability, it was justified by the Practice’s legitimate aim of ensuring that the best possible care was provided to patients.
Dr Ali appealed to the EAT.
The focus of the appeal is on one particular aspect of the ET’s reasoning: that related to the question whether the employer had shown the dismissal was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of ensuring the best possible care was provided to patients.
The tribunal had been aware of the correct test it was required to apply for the purposes of section15(1)(b) but had incorrectly applied it. While it had considered the impact of Dr Ali’s absence in terms of the Practice’s financial and operational costs and the effect on continuity of patient care; it had failed to consider the possibility of Dr Ali returning on a part-time basis. Dr Ali had indicated that he was able to return part-time and provided medical evidence to support this.
As at the date Dr Ali was dismissed, his last fitness to work certificate had ended, and the medical advice was that he should be able to return on a part-time basis. The tribunal had found that the failure to discuss the possibility of part-time working rendered the dismissal procedurally unfair.
The disability arising from the discrimination claim was remitted back to the same ET for reconsideration of the question of proportionality under section 15 of the .