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Employment

Spy Glass – Mr A Jones v Pilkington UK Ltd

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Alan Jones had been diagnosed with cancer at an early age. He was only 21 when he was found to have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.   To treat the condition in the 1980’s he was given high levels of radiotherapy and it was in the process of treatment suffered that it proved he’d suffered long term irreversible nerve damage. He received a diagnosis of fibrosis radiation syndrome.  The true impact of this damage became apparent in his middle age making his work at Pilkington Glass in Manchester often unbearable.

Mr Jones, 55, is a fifth generation Pilkington worker within his family and, until his diagnosis, hardly missed a day off work since joining the company in 1983.

As a result of his time off due to both the pain and discomfort Mr Jones’s mental health also began to suffer and he was receiving counselling for anxiety and depression.

To overcome both the mental and physical problems Mr Jones tried to keep active within the limitations his condition could permit.

On one of Mr Jones’s visits to a local shop a Pilkington employee spotted him wearing heavy duty work boots. This information found its way back to Pilkington’s management who decided it was of sufficient concern to hire a private surveillance company to check out Mr Jones’s activities.

The company engaged, “Mike Indigo 5”, charged £950 a day for their services and over a period of 4 days tracked his movements, filming him in various locations and circumstances.

The spying revealed Mr Jones helping a friend, water plants and passing a hosepipe and also on a trip to a job centre.

The surveillance occurred May 2019 and later that year in July management called Mr jones in for a meeting.  He had no knowledge of the purpose of the meeting and was shocked to be confronted with stills from the secret footage.  It transpired that Pilkington’s investigation went even further with background checks, mortgage liability and a valuation of the family home.

Mr Jones was dismissed on the strength of the evidence accumulated by surveillance however the dismissal proved to be unfair with clear mitigating circumstances as to footwear and activities.

This is a very clear example of failing to undertake the most rudimentary step, of contacting and speaking directly to the member of staff as part of a response to the “whistle-blower” who saw Mr Jones in the shop.

That event may well be worthy of triggering a conversation but the full 4-day surveillance gave an impression of an employer determined to find the evidence it needed to dismiss the long standing member of staff.

The findings:

  • The claimant was disabled in accordance with section 6(1) Equality Act 2010 by reason of the condition of depression and anxiety.
  • The complaint of discrimination on grounds of disability contrary to section 15 Equality Act 2010 is well founded to the extent described within the reasons given in this judgment. This means that the complaint of disability discrimination is successful.
  • The complaint of breach of contract is well founded. This means that the complaint is successful.

Time and time again in these cases we see evidence of companies failing to follow their own policies and in so doing costing the business dearly in damages, reputation and management time spent preparing for and no doubt stressing over a tribunal case.

Full case details: https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions/mr-a-jones-v-pilkington-uk-ltd-2401266-slash-2020

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