The case, funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, involved agency worker Corinda Pegg who had been dismissed after 44 weeks service due to absences caused by depression. After a series of bereavements she was absent from work for a week receiving mental health residential care. On her return to work she was sometimes late and, when questioned by her manager, explained that this was due to her disability.
Two months later, she was admitted to hospital following a panic attack and, whilst receiving medical care at home the following fortnight, she was told by phone that her employment had been terminated because of poor attendance and punctuality.
The case went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the legal question of whether equality law protects agency workers from being discriminated against by an organisation they are supplied to. The Judge said that, as Ms Pegg was under an obligation to work for Camden Council, it was subject to a legal duty not to discriminate. The compensation was awarded when the case returned for a full hearing to the Employment Tribunal.
Commission deputy director legal, Wendy Hewitt said: "There was an urgent need to clarify the legal status of agency workers who have been discriminated against, given the increase in this type of working arrangement.
"This case clarifies that agency workers are entitled to the same degree of protection from discrimination at their place of work as permanent employees"
Since 2011 agency workers have been afforded similar employment rights as permanent staff due to the terms of an EU Directive (Agency Workers Rights). Contractors or freelancers who are genuinely in business on their own account are exempt from these AWR provisions.
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2013