Tribunal rules that Doncaster Council social worker was unfairly dismissed due to health conditions
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In February, a tribunal ruled that former Doncaster Council employee Victoria Woodhouse was constructively dismissed from her role.
Miss Woodhouse began working with the council’s Adult Social Care team in July 2018, having transferred from the Doncaster Trust.
She took on a full-time role as a Discharge to Assess worker in residential homes in the East Locality Team.
Miss Woodhouse requested to reduce her hours despite enjoying her role, as she was dealing with Ehlers Danlos syndrome and cognitive issues.
In response, the council placed her in a different role working part-time in the community in the North Locality Team.
Miss Woodhouse quickly found that the new role was exacerbating her health issues.
An assessment by doctors then found that Miss Woodhouse had spinal stenosis, brain aneurysms, and changes on her brain leading to her being assessed for early onset dementia.
She requested to move back to her old role which now had a part-time vacancy.
Her immediate manager “stormed out” of a meeting on the issue, accusing Miss Woodhouse of lying about her health issues.
In March 2019, she was forced to take leave for ill health, still being refused to rejoin her previous role.
Miss Woodhouse said: “It’s adult social care and predominantly we worked with older adults including those with cognitive problems, you’d think they’d be a bit more understanding to say the least.
“All I wanted was to be supported in a job where I work to my strengths.”
In July, she was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, caused by high cholesterol levels damaging her brain.
She continued to request to rejoin her previous role, which was ignored by managers.
In October 2019, the council advertised a role in the East Locality Team, but refused to allow her to transfer as a reasonable adjustment, instead telling her to apply as an external candidate.
Miss Woodhouse remained on sick leave until March 2020, when she successfully requested to return to Discharge to Assess at Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, she was given an Access to Work assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and reasonable adjustments were made to support her health conditions.
For several months she enjoyed the role, however new parking rules meant she would be forced to park outside of the grounds.
This led to anxiety due to her cognitive impairment creating the potential for her to lose her car or acquire parking tickets.
She therefore moved back to her original role in the East Team, where new managers had no knowledge of the reasonable adjustments recommended by DWP.
She was immediately given five cases and was told she would have 15 to 20 to manage, while working 22.5 hours a week.
Miss Woodhouse requested for a reduced workload while she became reacquainted with the role or to move back to the hospital, having found new parking provisions.
In response, she was told by her manager to consider ill health retirement or redeployment.
At this time Miss Woodhouse filed a case for discrimination and offered to drop the case if the council would allow her to return to the hospital, which they refused.
While discrimination was not upheld the judge said it was “apparent” that she had been intimidated by managers.
Miss Woodhouse said: “I thought, they haven’t learnt anything, they’re not going to let me work, I’ve got the capabilities, they’re placing me somewhere they know I’m going to struggle, they’re going to put me on performance management and finish me, so I resigned.”
Three months after her resignation, she submitted a tribunal for constructive dismissal against Doncaster Council.
During the six day trial, Miss Woodhouse represented herself against the council’s management team which denied any wrongdoing.
The judge ruled in Miss Woodhouse’s favour that she had been constructively dismissed from the workplace.
She was awarded the maximum amount of one year’s salary.
Miss Woodhouse shared that she submitted the tribunal in order to raise awareness of invisible conditions and a lack of accountability within adult social care management.
Managers in adult social care are not required to hold care social worker qualifications, and there is no regulatory body in adult social work.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted Doncaster Council for a response.