Tribunal rules in favour of disabled social worker

Surrey Council discriminated against a senior child protection
social worker on the grounds of disability, an employment tribunal
ruled last month.

Roma Desai, who had worked for the council since 1993, suffers
from a bowel disorder. She had accused the council of failing to
make reasonable adjustments for her disability at work.

An employment tribunal held last month ruled that Surrey
Council’s actions were “unreasonable and unjustifiable” in not
helping Desai in her return to work after a period of illness and
major surgery.

The tribunal found that there should have been a reasonable
adjustment that allowed the social worker to work at home for a
short period – as recommended by the council’s own occupational
health physician.

However, subsequent efforts to allow Desai to return to work
were considered reasonable and the tribunal ruled that any award
for damages should only cover the period up to Desai’s resignation
in April this year.

A Surrey Council spokesperson said: “We are sorry that Mrs Desai
has been so ill and that Surrey Council was held to have
discriminated on the grounds of her disability. We will be looking
at the decision to determine whether we need to review any of our

A spokesperson for the Disability Rights Commission said it did
not make good business sense for employers to lose the skills of
staff who had become disabled. “We would urge social services to be
exemplars in employing disabled people. After all, who is better
placed than social care agencies to understand the importance of
employment to disabled people and to show other employers how to
achieve it in practice?”

Separate claims by Desai of race discrimination were dismissed
by the tribunal.

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