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Dealing with disciplinary allegations caused by poor mental health

Published 11 August 2022

Dealing with disciplinary allegations caused by poor mental health

How we deal with work-related stress differs from person to person and for Rohan how he did so was almost disastrous for his career.

Stress in the workplace can exacerbate a pre-existing mental health issue, which is exactly what happened in Rohan’s case.

The building supervisor was suspended from work when colleagues raised concerns about what they described as his ‘erratic behaviour.’

At the time Rohan, who had worked for his employer for seven years, had stopped taking antidepressants he had been prescribed for depression.

It was after ‘going off the rails’ following the sudden and unexpected death of his best friend.

The tragedy coincided with the conclusion of a redundancy process at work, the departure of a number of staff and Rohan’s workload increasing. He said it was the final straw.

Rohan did admit he had bottled things up, suffered a mental health crisis, not sought help, had felt overwhelmed and it would have been reflected in how he conducted himself at work.

The allegations Rohan faced were poor performance and a loss of trust and confidence in his ability as a manager.

He contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help after being urged to do so by his brother.

When our representative first spoke to Rohan he was keen to establish what the employer knew about his depression.

Rohan explained he had, had a number of lengthy absences as a result of suffering poor mental health over the years.

Our representative queried what support he had been provided with by work, and Rohan said he had not received any.

The letter inviting Rohan to a disciplinary hearing had a number of witness statements enclosed, which described behaviour they considered concerning.

Ahead of the hearing, Rohan was warned that if the allegations are considered proven it could lead to his dismissal.

Prior to the disciplinary meeting our representative requested a range of information from the employer, which he thought could support Rohan’s case.

The requested information included Rohan’s sickness record and return to work interviews.

The fact Rohan had suffered with depression long-term means it could be considered a disability in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

As the concern about Rohan’s performance related to what can be considered a disability, our representative discussed with him the idea of raising a grievance.

He did not want to do so and delay the disciplinary process because the constant worry about it was impacting on all aspects of his life.

At the disciplinary hearing, our representative asserted any concerns in relation to Rohan’s performance were directly and inextricably linked to a mental health crisis triggered by grief, which aggravated the symptoms of depression.

It was maintained that to sanction him in any way could amount to an act of discrimination, as it would be as a direct result of matters related to his disability.

Our representative referred to details of Rohan’s sickness record to highlight the company was well aware of his depression, but had failed to provide any meaningful support or make reasonable adjustments.

It was also used to maintain the company should reasonably have known he would struggle after he informed his manager of the death of his friend.

The evidence from colleagues all related to concerns about Rohan at the time when he had clearly suffered a mental health crisis, which was compounded by extra demands and pressure at work.

The fact no previous concerns had been raised about Rohan, and that at the time of the hearing he  was getting support and back taking his medication was used to argue he should be given another chance.

The disciplinary hearing chair was told the allegation of a loss of trust and confidence rested on if the poor performance allegation was  to be upheld, but any reasonable employer would reject that allegation.

Rohan was asked a number of questions about his health and events that occurred. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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