Joan Hutchinson wins unfair dismissal claim

Thursday 13th January 2022

You may have read the news stories about Joan Hutchinson, who is 75 and suffering from dementia, who last week won her claim for unfair dismissal. The headlines are ones that would make most employers shudder, how can you continue to employ someone who is getting confused and unable to do their job?

That’s why you need to look beyond the headlines. The problem Asda had, was that they were trying to be well intentioned and too nice. Rather than deal with the situation under a capability procedure they tried to discuss retirement and well intentioned employees invaded Mrs Hutchinson’s privacy rummaging in her  bag trying to help her find keys.

The moral of the story is to ensure that you follow proper procedure and continue to respect employees’ dignity.

What could Asda have done differently? Get a medical assessment of Mrs Hutchinson and make a decision based on that medical evidence. Ask Mrs Hutchinson if she needed help, not just barge in and help and take over (although that is good advice for any situation). Invite Mrs Hutchinson to have a family member present if she wanted at the relevant meetings.

As our workforce ages more and more employers will face having to deal with age related illnesses that can affect their employees’ ability to meet the performance standards required for their roles. It is important that employers remain compassionate but also follow proper procedure.

For assistance contact a member of our Employment Team on 01384 811 811