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Former employee with menopausal symptoms to receive £65,000 in a discrimination claim
Direct Line has been ordered to pay a former employee almost £65,000 after it failed to make reasonable adjustments when her role was affected by menopausal symptoms.
Maxine Lynskey worked as a telesales consultant at the insurance company between 2016 and May 2022, when she resigned. She then brought a constructive unfair dismissal claim and a claim that the company had breached the Equality Act 2010. Her claims of constructive unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and age discrimination were not upheld. But her complaints of a failure to make reasonable adjustments and a Section 15 complaint were successful. Section 15 refers to someone being treated unfavourably because of a disability.
Mrs Maxine Lynskey started working for Direct Line as a telesales consultant in 2016. She had been receiving d good performance ratings until the onset of menopausal symptoms which she started experiencing in 2019. Brain fog, concentration, memory issues and feeling tearful were among some of the symptoms she experienced. The menopausal symptoms impacted Mrs Lynskey’s performance levels. Following an “unacceptable” call with a customer, concerns were raised by her manager. Mrs Lynskey was signed off work because of work-related stress. Her manager offered Mrs Lynskey a new role believing it would be less stressful, which Mrs Lynskey accepted.
Mrs Lynskey transferred to the new role in June 2020. This transfer resulted in financial loss for Mrs Lynskey instead of making adjustments for her existing role – section 15. There were still concerns about her performance. In subsequent months, her manager categorised her performance struggles as a “confidence issue” and said she would speak to HR and potentially escalate the situation to a disciplinary matter if she felt she had unacceptably spoken to a customer.
Mrs Lynskey’s performance continued to be criticised. At the end of the year, she was rated “need for improvement”. In January 2021, she was informed that she would not receive a pay rise because of her performance rating. Direct Line then commenced formal performance management proceedings in April 2021. Mrs Lynskey reported in response that her performance-related issues were due to menopausal symptoms. She was signed off due to stress in July 2021.
Her manager later said the company would no longer continue her sick pay because the level of absence was “unsustainable” to the business. However, Lynskey believed she had only used half of her entitlement to paid sick leave at this point. She raised a grievance and received 13 weeks’ sick pay that had been withdrawn. Refresher training was recommended in an occupational health report. But this was refused with the business claiming there was no budget to cover this. She remained unfit to work and resigned in May 2022.
The Decision of the Employment Tribunal
The employment tribunal found in favour of the Claimant Mrs Lynskey in her claims against the Respondent for menopause discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments.
In their analysis of what amounted to discrimination, it was found that the comments “need for improvement” after four years of favourable reports and the loss of a pay increase amounted to unfavourable treatment that arose from her disability. Her ability to “improve” was hindered by the symptoms associated with her disability, i.e., mental impairment because of menopause.
The tribunal found that the company could have made any of eight suggested adjustments for Lynskey to be more successful in her role, pointing to the fact she had been transferred into a different role “under false pretences” rather than supporting her in her existing one.
Her other claims relating to age and sex discrimination as well as constructive unfair dismissal were not upheld by the tribunal. The Claimant was awarded a total of £64,645.07 in compensation.
This is an interesting case in the developing area of disability linked to menopause. This case builds on the growing recognition of the effect of women suffering from menopausal symptoms in the workplace. In this case, we are also reminded of the crucial importance of fairness, empathy, and proper support in the workplace, particularly concerning employees going through challenging times. This case could prove particularly important in the way employers respond to employees who suffer from menopausal symptoms. It also demonstrates the need for understanding and accommodations when employees are affected by menopausal symptoms.
Read the full case: Mrs M Lynskey vs Direct Line Insurances Services Ltd