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The Court of Appeal has held in Dunn v Secretary of State for Justice and anor that the poor handling of an ill-health retirement procedure did not amount to disability discrimination.

Mr Dunn was a prison inspector. He became ill with depression and a serious heart condition and applied for ill health early retirement. There was a considerable delay in processing his application, due to having to liaise with several internal and external departments, including HR, finance, occupational health, the pension provider and the pension provider's occupational health. The claimant raised a grievance about the length of time his application was taking, and when he was given his retirement benefit estimate it included several errors. As a result of the way that his ill health retirement was handled the claimant brought a claim for direct disability discrimination and unfavourable treatment.

The Court found that there was no disability discrimination. The tribunal (which had upheld the claimant's claims) had failed to consider the motivation of the decision-makers. If the claimant could not show a discriminatory motivation on the part of the decision-makers then he would have to show that it was inherently discriminatory. Although the process was inherently defective it was not inherently discriminatory.

Take note: In all cases is advisable to handle ill health early retirement applications as efficiently (and accurately!) as possible; motive isn't relevant to all forms of disability discrimination, such as indirect discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments But here the claimant failed to establish a discriminatory motivation on the parts of the relevant decision makers, and therefore his claims for direct discrimination failed.

This article is taken from HR Law - October 2018.