Belarussian doctor accused of poor communication just 'didn't understand UK weather obsession'

Dr Maryna Anatolyeva
Dr Maryna Anatolyeva -Credit:LinkedIn

A doctor who was criticised by her bosses for poor communication skills blamed her lack of understanding of the 'British fascination with the weather'.

Dr Maryna Anatolyeva qualified in her native country of Belarus before moving to the UK and began working for the NHS in 2009. Between 2021 and 2022, as part of her training to become an ST3 grade doctor, she undertook placements at the Royal Preston Hospital and the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Training assessments highlighted Dr Anatolyeva's need to improve her communication skills and she subsequently brought an Employment Tribunal claim against St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and NHS England in which she argued that her neurodiversity should be treated as a disability.


Documents published by the tribunal reveal that Dr Anatolyeva claimed that her career "is being jeopardised" and that she was being treated unfairly due to her "being different and having different thoughts, processes and perceptions".

The documents state: "In anonymised feedback from colleagues there are references to the claimant’s communication skills, and this is discussed. Reference is made to her communication being poor, but there is also discussion as to whether this may because of her nationality, in terms of her accent, or her 'thinking in Russian'."

In her impact statement Dr Anatolyeva, who is bringing claims of s claims of unfair dismissal, and age and race discrimination, said: "This is how it affects me, I am being religiously criticised and my career is being jeopardised, I am having unfair treatment at work for being different and having different thoughts, processes and perceptions."

The employment tribunal heard how "Maryna reported that her colleagues have commented on how Maryna does not maintain eye contact during conversation".

Following an assessment, a supervisor said: "Maryna told me that when she consciously tries to maintain eye contact, she feels like she is “staring”. Maryna added that she thought that maintaining eye contact during conversation was a British social norm.

"Growing up with her family in Belarus, this was not something she was taught was important.

"Maryna explained that she has found it challenging to adjust her communication style to ‘fit in ’with the expectations of the British culture. This can include being overtly 'friendly' and 'making small talk'."

Following the hearing in October, Employment Judge Holmes found that Dr Anatolyeva had not proved that her neurodiversity amounts to a disability. The judge concluded that the difficulties were due to cultural or language difficulties after an occupational therapy assessment found she had no medical issues.

There will be a further preliminary hearing on May 17 at Manchester Employment Tribunal to decide if Dr Anatolyeva's claim should be struck out or if she should be required to pay a deposit in order to continue with her claim.