Tribunal win could plug legal gap for disabled agency workers

A disabled woman sacked by a council from her temporary post after taking time off with depression has won an employment tribunal case – after a three-year legal battle – that should help other agency workers fight discrimination.

Camden council in north London had tried to argue that Corrie Pegg had no right to protection from disability discrimination laws because of the way she had been signed up through a recruitment agency as a contract worker.

But with the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Pegg won an appeal that should clarify the law for other agency workers.

An employment appeal tribunal ruled in April that the council did owe her legal duties under the Disability Discrimination Act, which was still in force at the time she was sacked from her job as a school travel planning officer.

Following that appeal win she finally had her case heard by an employment tribunal last month.

Pegg had had depression since 2003 and had managed her condition well, but she became unwell after a series of bereavements.

After seeking treatment in her own time, she spent a week in a mental health respite centre in June 2009.

Two months later, she was admitted to hospital, and then received visits at home from the community mental health team.

She was told 12 days later over the telephone that she had been sacked because of poor attendance and punctuality.

She later obtained information from the council, under the Data Protection Act, that revealed her health had been discussed in emails with staff members who had no need to know about it. She also suspected that her mental health had become the subject of office gossip.

Last month, an employment tribunal concluded that the council had failed to make the necessary reasonable adjustments for her mental health condition, and that she had been subject to harassment through internal emails discussing her mental health.

The level of compensation will be set at a hearing in February.

An EHRC spokeswoman said: “This case could start to plug the current and worrying gap in the law in respect of agency workers’ rights.

“There was an urgent need to be able to clarify the legal position of agency workers with regard to discrimination claims as so many people are affected and this case has now gone some way towards achieving that.”

A Camden council spokesman said: “All parties involved in this case are currently awaiting the written reasons for this ruling. The council will be in a position to respond… once these reasons are received.”

9 October 2012

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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Motability is ‘treating disabled people like criminals’ by fitting trackers

Motability has been accused of treating disabled people like criminals, after it began fixing tracking devices to their cars.

The organisation says it has introduced the new measure in a bid to detect “misuse” of its disabled people’s car scheme.

All new customers and those renewing their agreements with the Motability car scheme will now be forced to have a location tracker fitted to their car, if they live in a care home or have an open insurance policy.

Open policies allow disabled people to insure all of a flexible pool of personal assistants who may need to drive their car, rather than having to declare a small number of named drivers on their policy.

Ruth Bashall, a prominent disabled activist, and a user of the scheme for more than a decade, has called on Motability to review its new policy.

Because she has an open insurance policy, she has been told she will have to have a tracker fixed on her new Motability vehicle, which has yet to be delivered.

Bashall said the compulsory fitting of location trackers was a potential breach of the right to privacy and to justice under the Human Rights Act, and potential discrimination under the Equality Act.

She said that as a disabled person with high support needs who uses personal assistants she is having an “unreasonable condition” imposed upon her by Motability.

Motability’s decision to fit the tracking devices follows a series of other measures it has introduced to combat what it claims is “misuse and misrepresentation” by a small minority of customers.

But Bashall said it was also the latest example of the government and wider society “questioning the integrity of disabled people” over their benefits and entitlements.

This includes a series of inaccurate and hostile media reports attacking alleged fraud and misuse of the scheme, which enables disabled people claiming the higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance to lease a new vehicle from Motability.

Bashall said the fitting of tracking devices was “insulting and offensive”, and added: “I am extremely concerned about the civil liberties aspect.

“We fit people with tags to track them if they have committed an offence. I have committed no offence.

“We have a government that thinks every disabled person is basically a shyster, and a society that is convinced that every disabled person is a cheat. It is saying to me that I or my PAs are potential fraudsters.”

She added: “This is not an effective way to prevent abuse of the scheme.”

A Motability spokeswoman said the “location trackers” were being fitted to new cars where “the risk of potential misuse is highest”, with customers who have an open insurance policy or live in a care home.

She said: “We will only have access to location data, and will only make use of this data where we receive a report, or suspect, that a car may be being misused. It will not be used or looked at unless there is an allegation that raises suspicion.”

She said the tracker could be used to clear disabled people subjected to malicious allegations and would be there to “protect the scheme and the customer”.

She said Motability expected to fit location trackers in fewer than five per cent of the 600,000 cars leased through the scheme.

Bashall has asked Motability how the data will be stored, who will have access to it, how long it will be kept and for what purposes it will be used, and is questioning whether the use of trackers will breach the Data Protection Act.

4 October 2012

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Motability is ‘treating disabled people like criminals’ by fitting trackers

Motability has been accused of treating disabled people like criminals, after it began fixing tracking devices to their cars.

The organisation says it has introduced the new measure in a bid to detect “misuse” of its disabled people’s car scheme.

All new customers and those renewing their agreements with the Motability car scheme will now be forced to have a location tracker fitted to their car, if they live in a care home or have an open insurance policy.

Open policies allow disabled people to insure all of a flexible pool of personal assistants who may need to drive their car, rather than having to declare a small number of named drivers on their policy.

Ruth Bashall, a prominent disabled activist, and a user of the scheme for more than a decade, has called on Motability to review its new policy.

Because she has an open insurance policy, she has been told she will have to have a tracker fixed on her new Motability vehicle, which has yet to be delivered.

Bashall said the compulsory fitting of location trackers was a potential breach of the right to privacy and to justice under the Human Rights Act, and potential discrimination under the Equality Act.

She said that as a disabled person with high support needs who uses personal assistants she is having an “unreasonable condition” imposed upon her by Motability.

Motability’s decision to fit the tracking devices follows a series of other measures it has introduced to combat what it claims is “misuse and misrepresentation” by a small minority of customers.

But Bashall said it was also the latest example of the government and wider society “questioning the integrity of disabled people” over their benefits and entitlements.

This includes a series of inaccurate and hostile media reports attacking alleged fraud and misuse of the scheme, which enables disabled people claiming the higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance to lease a new vehicle from Motability.

Bashall said the fitting of tracking devices was “insulting and offensive”, and added: “I am extremely concerned about the civil liberties aspect.

“We fit people with tags to track them if they have committed an offence. I have committed no offence.

“We have a government that thinks every disabled person is basically a shyster, and a society that is convinced that every disabled person is a cheat. It is saying to me that I or my PAs are potential fraudsters.”

She added: “This is not an effective way to prevent abuse of the scheme.”

A Motability spokeswoman said the “location trackers” were being fitted to new cars where “the risk of potential misuse is highest”, with customers who have an open insurance policy or live in a care home.

She said: “We will only have access to location data, and will only make use of this data where we receive a report, or suspect, that a car may be being misused. It will not be used or looked at unless there is an allegation that raises suspicion.”

She said the tracker could be used to clear disabled people subjected to malicious allegations and would be there to “protect the scheme and the customer”.

She said Motability expected to fit location trackers in fewer than five per cent of the 600,000 cars leased through the scheme.

Bashall has asked Motability how the data will be stored, who will have access to it, how long it will be kept and for what purposes it will be used, and is questioning whether the use of trackers will breach the Data Protection Act.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com