Npower failed to make adjustments for autistic employee

By Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR

An analyst who suffered with autism was discriminated against by Npower after it failed to make changes to his working environment to allow him to work in comfort.

Tom Sherbourne began working for the energy giant in October 2017. He was positioned in an open-plan setting with a busy walkway behind him, and there were also building works going on around him.

Sherbourne’s line manager Debra Glancy was unaware of any autism diversity policy within the company, and immediately took issue with his behaviour. She didn’t know autistic people can find background noise loud and distracting, and accused him of “disruptive and loud behaviour”.

A week later the two spoke again and Glancy told Sherbourne: “We’re not here to wipe arse”.

The tension between the two continued and Sherbourne struggled more with new desk mates and changes to his working environment.

In February 2018 Sherbourne suffered what he called a “breakdown” at work. Glancy witnessed the incident and described it as “a bit of a meltdown”.

Sherbourne went off sick and Glancy discussed the situation with Npower’s occupational health team, which recommended various changes to his working environment.

A welfare meeting took place to discuss Sherbourne’s ability to return to work, but he said Glancy was “more concerned with when he would come back to work rather than his disability”.

His employment was terminated in September.

The Employment Tribunal ruled that Npower discriminated against Sherbourne due to his disability.

It heard that the suggested changes to make his working environment more comfortable “could have been achieved”.

Glancy blamed a lack of training for failing to implement the suggested changes.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law then please contact Joanne Stronach on 01228 516 666 or email her here.

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