In Hinsley v Chief Constable of West Mercia Constabulary the EAT held that the Chief Constable of West Mercia should have offered reinstatement as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to an employee with depression who resigned from the police force.

Mrs Hinsley was a probationary police officer in the West Mercia police who exhibited dissatisfaction with her job and indicated that she did not like independent patrol duties. It was agreed to remove her from these duties but she rejected the offer. She brought claims of bullying and sex discrimination which she later withdrew. She then expressed a wish to leave the police and but she was counselled to consider her position and was offered welfare support. She insisted on tendering her resignation. She was again asked to reconsider but she said she had an alternative job offer outside the police force. The force delayed processing her resignation letter and asked for an exit interview to be arranged. Mrs Hinsley then said she may have been hasty and wanted to stay with the police but to be transferred to a different team (having previously rejected an offer of transfer). She was offered a transfer to any other team because the one she had identified had performance issues. She rejected that offer but was counselled by the police force to consider staying.

She telephoned Mr Coley, divisional personnel officer, a few days later to say that she wanted her exit interview brought forward as she was about to start her new job. At the exit interview she was urged again to retract her resignation and was offered transfer to the original team she had wanted to transfer to or to any other team. She rejected all these options and confirmed her intention to resign, which was finally accepted.

Mrs Hinsley was then diagnosed by her GP with depression. She telephoned the police force’s personnel department to advise them of this diagnosis and to ask to be reinstated. She spoke to Mr Coley and threatened ‘industrial tribunal proceedings’ saying she would get a considerable sum of money because she had been diagnosed with depression. Her request for reinstatement was considered by three heads of department and the conclusion reached that there was no provision in the police regulations for reinstatement or re-engagement. Mrs Hinsley brought proceedings under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).  

The EAT overturned the tribunal’s decision, finding that the Chief Constable had breached the DDA by failing to make a reasonable adjustment (ie reinstating her). It noted that there was no express prohibition in law (including the Police Regulations) against reinstatement after an employee had resigned. It found that it would have been a reasonable adjustment to take her back into the service without the need to apply from scratch. Interestingly, the EAT appears to be suggesting that an employer’s duties towards an ex employee are no less onerous than when the employee still worked for the employer. This is a worrying development and will hopefully not be the last word. Employers will be very concerned if they are expected to offer re-employment to every employee with depression who has resigned.