Children's home worker who "could barely walk" wins claim after she was humiliated by her bosses

Lancashire County Council
Lancashire County Council -Credit:LDRS

A children's home worker has won an employment tribunal after she was left "humiliated and embarrassed" by her bosses.

Dee Leigh submitted a claim to the employment tribunal on the grounds of discrimination arising from disability, failure to make reasonable adjustments and harassment. She had also included a complaint of age discrimination in her claim form and also complaints of victimisation and direct disability discrimination but these were later withdrawn.

The tribunal in Manchester heard that Ms Leigh began working for Lancashire County Council as a children's care worker in 2003. She had already been diagnosed with arthritis and spondylitis of the spine.


In 2005 she took up the post of assistant manager at Warwick Avenue Children’s Home in Clayton-le-Moors. Part of her role was to sleep over at the home, which accommodates up to six children, but she was exempt from carrying out physical restraints because of her medical conditions.

However, Ms Leigh's line manager, Caroline Holmes, began to raise concerns about her decreasing mobility. Ms Leigh sent a text to a colleague in which she said: "I know your stance is you now know the situation so you have to do something about it but Caroline has been aware of the situation for many years and has managed it well and has had no concerns regarding me fulfilling my role as an Assistant Manager."

Ms Holmes' superior, John Simpson, then said that if Ms Leigh could not physically restrain children then she could not work in the home. Mr Simpson instructed Ms Holmes to refer the claimant to occupational health which she did.

Although the occupational health advisor noted that Ms Leigh "could not stand and walk from more than five minutes currently without aggravating her pain and could sit comfortably for about 30 minutes only" she was able to work with reasonable adjustments as she was likely to be considered to have a disability. Other options included ill health retirement and disability retention.

The council's HR department then said that "if occupational health do determine Dee unfit to do [sleepovers and physical restraint], it is likely that we will ultimately be exploring ill health redeployment or retirement”.

During a meeting in September 2020 Ms Leigh asked if she thought she would be finished. Ms Holmes informed her that she did not know but she recommended Ms Leigh examine her pension situation and consider speaking to a financial advisor.

After the meeting Ms Leigh wrote to one of her bosses wrote that the prospect of not being able to work was life changing and devastating to her and she was absolutely heartbroken. She also expressed a suspicion that they were trying to get rid of her.

Over the following 18 months, and several meetings and assessments, Ms Leigh's employer informed her that she was to be considered for retirement on the grounds of ill health.

The employment tribunal documents state: "The claimant said she had had enough and was ready to go. The claimant said in evidence that she felt pressured when the ill-health retirement process started some fourteen months earlier."

In July 2022 Ms Leigh was informed of the council's decision to retire her on ill health. She submitted her claim to the employment tribunal two days later.

The employment tribunal found that Ms Leigh's complaint of harassment related to disability concerning the suspension on medical grounds on 14 April 2021 is well founded. A remedy hearing will take place in due course.

The judge concluded: "The manner of the suspension was that the claimant was taken out of a team meeting, told to leave the building immediately and not to speak to anyone. The impact of this was that, to an observer, it could look like a sort of suspension that would be given for alleged gross misconduct. The effect on the claimant went beyond mere upset.

"We accepted that she was shocked, humiliated and embarrassed by this treatment. We conclude that this conduct did have the effect of violating the claimant’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her."

LancsLive has contacted Lancashire County Council for a comment.