Diabetic Salesman Put Under Too Much Pressure to Meet Targets

A diabetic telephone salesman who was put under intense pressure to meet targets – and was eventually sacked for failing to do so – has won the right to substantial compensation for unfair dismissal and his employer's failure to make reasonable adjustments to cater for his disabilities (Vodafone Limited v Winfield).

Mr Winfield began working for Vodafone Limited in June 1999 as a sales adviser in a call centre in Stoke-on-Trent. He has suffered from diabetes for over 20 years and is insulin dependent. More recently, he developed an associated condition, retinopathy, which has significantly affected his eyesight. Both conditions are disabilities under the Equality Act 2010.

His employer had always been aware that Mr Winfield's diabetes constituted a disability and became aware shortly after it was diagnosed in January 2014 that retinopathy was also a disability.

Mr Winfield's difficulty in meeting sales targets was worsened when he was moved onto flexible shift working. His grievances were poorly dealt with and, although some adjustments were made to his work conditions, the pressure on him to achieve sales targets continued until his dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that Mr Winfield's two complaints that Vodafone had failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disability had been brought out of time, but judged that it was just and equitable to extend the time limit. In the ET's view, Vodafone had breached his rights under the Act. The adjustments made were inadequate and his performance targets should have been reduced in the light of his disabilities. His claim of unfair dismissal was also upheld, in large part related to the failures that the ET had found with regard to the making of reasonable adjustments, but there had also been procedural failings and his dismissal was premature.

In rejecting Vodafone's appeal against those decisions, the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the ET that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it was just and equitable to extend the three-month time limit which normally applies to claims brought under the Act. The finding of unfair dismissal also disclosed no error of law.

The amount of Mr Winfield's compensation has yet to be assessed.