June 18, 2019

An ex-employee for homelessness charity Shelter recently won an unfair dismissal claim and received £28,000 in compensation. 

James Bulloss worked for Shelter from September 2014 to October 2017. During the first few years, he worked as a telephone advisor for the charity. But, in May 2017, he began training for a new webchat role and underwent a four-week trial period in July 2017. 

His employers stated that anyone who failed the trial would be moved back to their old advisor role on telephones. Bulloss failed the trials due to numerous grammatical and spelling errors in his chats, which he believed were due to dyslexia.

Midway through the trial, he took time off work due to illness and had a return-to-work meeting with the webchat leader, Jackson. During this meeting, he expressed how tiring it was to learn webchat because he’d never had to write so much before. He also said he believed this was mostly because he was dyslexic.

Bulloss returned to work and continued the trial period, before another meeting with Jackson on 18 August 2017. Here, Bulloss explained that webchat was getting a lot easier for him and that he felt as though his errors were subsiding.

Jackson agreed that his mistakes weren't as frequent, and she also said his advice was excellent and received positive feedback. However, she said that as long as the grammatical errors still existed, then it reflected badly on Shelter. So, he was given a week to try and control the problem. 

On the 22 August, Bulloss requested more leave as he felt exhausted from work. The following day, he contacted the HR advisor at Shelter to ask if there was any guidance around dyslexia. The adviser had no information but said she’d look for any and get back to him.

A week later, and Bulloss found out that he had failed the webchat trial and would be forced to return to telephone work the next day. Bulloss requested leave from work on this same day and used any remaining holidays to take time off. He returned on 25 September 2017 and informed Shelter that he’d been diagnosed with dyslexia.

After this revelation, he asked for a phased return to work, along with reasonable adjustments. After a week, Bulloss was struggling with the exhaustion of working phone shifts and asked about being moved to the webchat. He also enquired about the reasonable adjustments, to see what changes had been made to accommodate his disability.

However, he found out that there was no option from Shelter to be moved to webchat as he failed his trial. Furthermore, they stated there were no reasonable adjustments because his dyslexia didn’t affect his ability on the phone.

In essence, they refused to invest in any reasonable adjustments and wouldn’t let him move to webchat.

Bulloss resigned on 24 October as he didn’t think Shelter dealt with his particular issue very well at all. He then filed a tribunal claim for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.

A Sheffield Employment Tribunal ruled that he had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against. It was unfair to remove him from webchat services because of a disability. Furthermore, no effort was made to help accommodated his dyslexia and provide reasonable adjustments.

Bulloss won £28,000 in total, while Shelter was condemned for not supporting their staff as well as they could and should.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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