Depressed employee sues company for deducting sick pay

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A mother-of-two, who became depressed when her husband announced he was gay, has successfully sued her employers for refusing her sick pay during her time off work with depression.

Olga Gofmane, a manager of one of Holland and Barrett’s branches, was signed off work by her doctor, but she received wages of just £1.50 a month after the company deducted sick pay.

She sued the company for breach of contract, and the tribunal at Reading, heard how Mrs Gofmane had been diagnosed with clinical depression after the breakdown of her marriage.

Mrs Gofmane told an employment tribunal:

“To the latter part of 2011 I had to deal with extremely difficult personal circumstances and consequently I started to become physically and mentally unwell.”

It was revealed that initially she remained at work because she had to support herself and her children, but her unfortunate situation at home led to her making mistakes at work and her line managers launched a disciplinary procedure.

In addition to this, they criticised her over an alleged unauthorised absence when she took a Saturday off because her daughter was ill, despite her stating she had texted her area manager to alert her.

On visiting a doctor on March 20 2012, she was advised to stop working immediately and was signed off.

When she received her pay slip for April, Mrs Gofmane found that her sick pay had been deducted, despite the company paying statutory sick pay.

She told the Court:

“I rang the HR department the same day. I was sure it was a mistake. I was at my wits’ end and totally distressed at the prospect of not having my salary.

“I’m a single mother with two children, with rent and bills and food to buy and was totally panicking as to how I would manage financially.”

The panel also heard that she had to get an emergency loan from a friend in Switzerland and also went back to work early, against her doctor’s advice.

Holland and Barrett later paid the money, following a grievance brought by Mrs Gofmane, but the tribunal has now ruled that their actions were in breach of the contract.

The judge ordered the company to pay the £77.40 Mrs Gofmane incurred in arranging the loan from her friend.

At the same hearing the firm was acquitted of any disability discrimination against its employee, who had alleged she was unfairly treated because of her mental health problems.

Judge Russell Hardwick accepted the argument of Mrs Gofmane’s regional manager, in which it was reported that she had suspended the worker because of her not adhering to company rules on reporting absence.

The judge stated the evidence of her having a disability was ‘scant’ and that even if they had considered that her mental health problems were a disability, Holland and Barrett was unaware of it at the time it instigated disciplinary proceedings and stopped her pay.

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  1. I think it is the responsibility of the employee to make known their disability to management and also try as much as possible to adhere to rules relating to work. A work place is not a charitable source of income or a rehabilitation centre for the disabled but a place where one’sskills and abilities assist the productivity of an investment.

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