Withdrawal of job offer ruled illegal

EASTBOURNE Homes Limited has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds to a man after it decided not to employ him because he had been signed off sick for the whole previous year due to depression.

Graham Smith, from Pulborough Avenue, was awarded £7,529.14 following a dispute with Eastbourne Homes Limited, a company which manages more than 4,000 homes for Eastbourne Borough Council.

The company had indicated it was set to hire Mr Smith but retracted the offer after references revealed he had been off work for 12 months.

An employment tribunal ruled Mr Smith had been discriminated against under disability legislation (the Equality Act 2010) and ordered the council to pay up.

Mr Smith said, “In March of 2011, they unlawfully discriminated against me on the grounds of disability when they withdrew an offer of employment that they had made to me.

“I had applied for the position, was interviewed and selected as the “preferred candidate” with a start date of March 7 meaning I had to resign my current employment (at significantly higher salary).

“However, when they applied for references, they discovered that I had had a period of sickness absence that was caused by my disability, with my last employer, who as I said I had resigned from in order to take up the post with Eastbourne Homes.

“Without any enquiry as to the reason for the absence, they telephoned me and withdrew the offer, stating categorically that this was due to the sickness absence, that had I mentioned it (the absence) it could have been dealt with at interview and that there was nothing else wrong with my references, it was just my absence.

“Knowing that withdrawing an offer of employment based upon sickness or disability was unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, I immediately brought proceedings in the employment tribunal against Eastbourne Homes.”

Mr Smith told the Herald he suffered from severe and enduring depression, which he said has been made far worse because he has remained unemployed since the dispute began in March.

A spokesman for Eastbourne Homes Limited said, “The judgement of the employment tribunal is accepted by Eastbourne Homes Ltd (EHL).

“The findings of the tribunal panel are being considered in a careful review of relevant procedures within EHL.