DWP lost more disability discrimination cases than any other employer

Department for Work and Pensions lost more disability discrimination cases than any other UK employer with nearly £1m paid out over three years

  • DWP defended itself on 134 bias claims by disabled employees in three years
  • One employee was sacked as DWP claimed she had taken too much sick leave
  • Department settled 45 claims out of court between April 2017 and June 2019 

The department tasked with supporting disabled people lost more disability discrimination cases than any other UK employer over a three-year period.

The Department for Work and Pensions defended itself against 134 claims of bias by disabled employees.

A BBC Panorama investigation revealed it lost 17 cases – 13 per cent. On average, employers lose 3 per cent.

The Department for Work and Pensions defended itself against 134 claims of bias by disabled employees. A stock image is used above [File photo]

A total of £953,315 was paid out to staff as a result of the department losing employment tribunals or settling out of court. 

Freedom of Information requests showed that between April 2017 and June 2019 the department settled 45 claims out of court at a cost of £713,000. The rest of the costs were awarded to people who won tribunals.

Disability discrimination lawyer Karen Jackson said: ‘There is a horrible irony that the organisation that is designed to look after the more vulnerable members of our society is constantly falling foul of the Equality Act around disability.’ 

She added: ‘The numbers are quite compelling and the level of claims being brought for disability discrimination against DWP is quite high.’

Freedom of Information requests showed that between April 2017 and June 2019 the department settled 45 claims out of court at a cost of £713,000. The rest of the costs were awarded to people who won tribunals  [File photo] 

An employee called Charlotte, 34, suffered serious health problems, including depression.

After four years, she was sacked by the DWP because it claimed she had taken too much sick leave.

She said: ‘I kind of felt like if I had time off people thought I was lying or faking it or I wasn’t really ill – and that was kind of a culture.’

At a tribunal in March 2017, she was awarded one of the biggest payouts to a former DWP employee on the grounds of disability discrimination.

Barrie Caulcutt, 57, from Caernarfon, North Wales, worked at the department for over 30 years. 

He sufferers from a panic and anxiety disorder that can lead to life-threatening asthma attacks.

In 2014, he was forced to attend training in a small room despite the fact he told his manager he could not because of his disability.

During the training course he collapsed and suffered a severe asthma attack. He was admitted to hospital, but his bosses called the next day to ask where he was.

The department tasked with supporting disabled people lost more disability discrimination cases than any other UK employer over a three-year period. A stock image is used above [File photo]

Mr Caulcutt said: ‘The DWP managers that have done this to me have ruined my health. They’ve ruined my career. I won’t be able to work again.’

The tribunal judge described his treatment as ‘wholly unacceptable’ and he was awarded £26,000.

In response to the Panorama findings, the DWP said: ‘We are shocked that – when presented in this way – the data shows us in this light.’ 

It insisted it had ‘made significant progress to support employees with disabilities’.

Panorama: The Million Pound Disability Payout is on BBC1 today at 8.30pm.

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