Charity says court ruling is boost to employment rights


Campaigners have welcomed a “landmark” high court ruling in the case of a former council boss accused by her employer of withholding a history of depression.
Cheltenham borough council lost its claim for a million pounds in compensation from its former managing director, Christine Laird.
When Laird filled in a council health screening questionnaire, she said she enjoyed good health and did not consider herself to be disabled. But she later experienced mental ill-health, which the council claimed caused it substantial financial losses.
A high court judge ruled that Laird had not acted fraudulently or negligently, even though she had experienced depression in the past. But he also dismissed her counter-claim for damages from the council.
The disability charity RADAR said there was no reason why someone who had previously had mental health problems should not have answered the questions the way Laird did.
The charity wants companies to be banned from forcing applicants to fill in medical questionnaires before being offered a job.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “This is a very important judgment for the equality of people living with mental or physical ill-health or disability.
“We are very concerned at the idea that if an individual is open about a history of mental ill-health, an employer might decide not to employ that person.”
The mental health charity Mind said the “landmark” ruling should remind employers of the need to provide support for those with mental health problems in the workplace.
Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive, said: “The concern now is that employers will introduce more stringent pre-employment questionnaires which will only serve to raise the barrier to employment for people with mental health problems.
“The government must use the new equality bill as an opportunity to restrict the use of pre-employment questionnaires and instead introduce a post-appointment survey which will identify any need for additional support.”
The council said it was “disappointed” with the verdict and claimed that if it had known Laird’s medical history at the time, she would probably not have been given the job. It will now consider the judgement in detail before deciding what action to take.


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