Hot flushes in the Employment Tribunal

2 March 2022

Disability within the meaning of EqA 2010 is defined as  any impairment (physical or mental) that has a significant and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.  The impairment does not have to be caused by an illness or an injury. What this means is that even transient conditions can qualify so long as they have lasted for at least 12 months, or are likely to last for at least 12 months. See Schedule 1 to EqA 2010.  

A transient condition such as the menopause can, therefore, qualify as a disability, even if the symptoms only in fact last (or are expected to last) for a year. One would have thought, therefore, that a woman suffering severe menopausal symptoms would satisfy the statutory definition without difficulty.

Not so for the claimant in Ms M Rooney v Leicester City Council EA-000070-DA. The case sheds little light on the statutory definition of “long term” referred to above, since the judge at first instance ruled that the claimant’s symptoms had not lasted 12 months, when her uncontested evidence was that they had. Furthermore, the judge held that the claimant’s symptoms (hot flushes and sweating, palpitations and anxiety, night sweats and sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, urinary problems and headaches) did not have a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Unsurprisingly, the Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the claimant’s appeal, and ordered the case to be remitted to a new tribunal to consider the matter afresh!


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