Disability discrimination claims that are filed outside a three-month statutory time limit will usually be dismissed without a hearing – but what if the disability itself is the cause of the delay? That issue was considered in a guideline case concerning a trainee pharmacist who was stricken by chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The woman suffered from several long-term disabling conditions, including post-viral CFS. The condition was characterised by an overwhelming sense of fatigue and a chronic influenza-like malaise, typically worsened by physical or mental exertion. She was sometimes so unwell that she had to take to her bed for days.
She held a trainee position with an NHS trust for six months before she decided that she could no longer cope with the strain and resigned. She subsequently launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings on the basis that reasonable adjustments had not been made to cater for her disability. She said that she was required to stand for extended periods and was not provided with a suitable chair.
Following a preliminary hearing, the ET noted that she had lodged her claim outside the primary three-month limitation period provided for in Section 123 of the Equality Act 2010. The delay was significant, but the ET found that it was just and equitable to extend time so that her case against the trust could proceed to a full hearing.
The ET acknowledged the serious physical and mental limitations arising from her lifelong condition. For about five months following her resignation she was simply too unwell to carry out necessary inquiries or to issue her claim. Once her health improved sufficiently, she took those steps promptly and at the first available opportunity. She was also permitted to proceed with her claim against two other public bodies involved in the training of pre-registration pharmacists.