Crisp v Iceland Frozen Foods Ltd 2012 EqLR 618

This is one of the first cases where an employment tribunal has exercised its power to make a recommendation under the Equality Act 2010 that an employer should provide training in disability discrimination particularly relating to mental health to its HR employees and general disability discrimination training to its managers.

Mrs Crisp was awarded £7,000 for injury to feelings when she overheard a conversation ridiculing her disability between her area manager and an area human resources manager although there was no intention to distress the Claimant and the parties did not intend her to hear the conversation. There was a finding of direct discrimination and harassment and also indirect discrimination and she was not allowed to bring her husband to her appeal hearing even though he could help if she had a panic attack. The Company’s policy was to allow only a colleague or union representative to attend. Departing from its policy so that a family member could attend was a reasonable adjustment which Iceland had failed to make. It was found that senior management including those in HR demonstrated a lack of understanding of disability issues. The Tribunal therefore recommended that all those in HR who provide advice undergo training in disability discrimination within one year and all managers at the same level of hierarchy as Mr Evans, Mrs Crisp’s area manager, also undergo training around disability discrimination generally.

Key point: Best practice suggests an employer should ensure that its relevant employees if not all of its employees are provided with training in discrimination matters to reduce if not eliminate the risk of discrimination claims.