An employment tribunal has upheld a complaint against the General Social Care Council (GSCC) made by Kay Sheldon over the handling of her unsuccessful bid to join the regulator’s conduct panel.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) board member Sheldon, who has a mental health condition covered by the Equality Act, had asked the GSCC to make reasonable adjustments to its interview process when applying for a place on its panel.
But after these requests were turned down and she missed out on the job by a small margin, Sheldon decided to take the case to an employment tribunal.
The tribunal upheld her claim that there had been a breach of duty to make reasonable adjustments by the GSCC.
Adjustments that Sheldon had asked for during the application process in 2010, which the tribunal agreed should have been made, were for her to have sight of the questions an hour before the interview and to be able to read the required presentation.
During the hearing, which took place in April this year, Sheldon represented herself.
The tribunal informed Sheldon of its decision last week and a remedy hearing will take place next month, shortly before the GSCC closes and its functions are taken over by the Health and Care Professions Council.
Sheldon said she wanted to join the GSCC’s conduct panel after being the victim of abuse from a care professional and wanting to protect others.
Another reason was because “the GSCC made very positive statements about its commitments to equality and diversity”.
She took the decision to go to an employment tribunal because of her disappointment that the GSCC had “failed to meet its statutory duties and not followed good practice and its own policies”.
Sheldon said although people with mental health conditions looking for work are entitled to ask for reasonable adjustments to be made during the interview process, few do due to “embarrassment and possible stigma”
It is also difficult to determine what adjustments are needed and to clearly define what is “reasonable”.
Further adjustments to the application process presented to the tribunal were not upheld. These were for the assessments to be held over two days, for greater weight to be put on the application form, CV and references and for the GSCC to contact Sheldon to discuss her needs. The tribunal also ruled that the GSCC did not directly discriminate against Sheldon.
Penny Thompson, GSCC chief executive, said: “It is reassuring that the employment tribunal agrees with us that there was no direct discrimination and has dismissed this claim. However, they did uphold two out of the six claims that we were in breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments for the candidate. We are disappointed about this decision, as it was our intention to make appropriate reasonable adjustments.”
Sheldon gained national media attention last November when she gave evidence about failings within the CQC last November at the Stafford hospital inquiry.
She was particularly critical of then chief executive Cynthia Bower, who resigned in February this year.
CQC board member calls for chief Cynthia Bower to resign