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In a borderline decision, the Court of Appeal upheld an employment tribunal decision that a school was not justified under the Equality Act in dismissing a teacher who had been off for about 17 months.

However, this decision in O’Brien v Bolton St Catherine’s Academy (bailii.org) turned both on the particular facts, and on an appeal court respecting the decision of the employment tribunal unless the latter has made an error of law.

The Court of Appeal indicated that it may well have overturned the tribunal decision if the employee had been saying she needed a little longer before she was fit to return to work. However, she was in fact saying she could return now, and the further delay was needed only for the school to confirm with OH whether she was indeed fit to work. It was proportionate to delay to enable that to happen.

More: Ill health and the EqA>Example: O’Brien v Bolton St Catherine’s.

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