Incompetence alone is not discrimination

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of certain characteristics, including:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex or sexual orientation and
  • Disability

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination in the workplace.  A prison inspector who worked for the Ministry of Justice applied for ill health retirement as he suffered from a heart condition and depression.  His employer delayed his application for 13 months during which time his depression worsened.  As a result, the employee brought a claim against the Ministry of Justice for disability discrimination.

The Court of Appeal found that the employer had handled his application for ill health retirement incompetently as their processes were poor.  However, the Court found that there was no discriminatory motivation and as such, the employee's claim failed.

The Court found that incompetence on its own was not enough to amount to discrimination.

This case is an important reminder for employers that even the Government as an employer can get it wrong! It is important for employers to ensure that their processes are robust and promptly carried out when any application from an employee is received.  Processes must be fair and not capable in themselves of amounting to discrimination.

To discuss this or any other employment related issue, contact us.