Whitbread ‘didn’t make enough adjustments’ for disabled manager
A kitchen manager was unfairly dismissed after his employers failed to consider his disability and the restrictions it placed on him when reviewing his performance.
That was the ruling of the Employment Tribunal in the case of Hermosa Mateo, who was dismissed by the Whitbread Group, which owns the Beefeater chain of restaurants.
Mateo had joined The Albert in Colchester three years before his dismissal. It was one of the chain’s worst performing restaurants when he arrived, but the tribunal heard that it had been “substantially transformed” under his management.
In November 2017, Mateo suffered a ruptured bowel and had to undergo major surgery.
He was off work sick for several months and his painkillers caused side-effects of memory loss and lack of concentration.
When he returned, he had a meeting with his line manager to discuss his new circumstances. It was agreed he would return on a basis of 24 hours per week, before progressing to his contracted 48 hours per week.
However, once he returned to the 48-hour week, there was no review of his ability to cope with the extra workload. Also, given the characteristics of a busy kitchen, Mateo frequently had to work beyond his scheduled hours.
In July 2018, The Albert failed a food safety audit carried out by an external organisation. Mateo was not on duty at the time, and the head chef who shared his responsibilities was suspended by Whitbread.
Mateo worked more hours to cover the absence of the head chef. The excess strain increased the pain from his injury, so he took more painkillers, which in turn increased the side-effects of memory loss and lack of concentration.
Mateo was invited to a meeting to review the 20 issues that had been highlighted during the food safety audit.
He explained that his medication was affecting his ability to carry out all the necessary safety checks in the kitchen and added that many of the issues should have been addressed by other members of staff.
Mateo was suspended, and after going through the disciplinary process, he was dismissed.
He took the case to the Employment Tribunal which ruled in his favour. It concluded that Whitbread had not put in place reasonable adjustments to Mateo’s role to enable him to work effectively with his disability.
However, it reduced his compensation by 60% on the basis that had he not been disabled, there was a chance the dismissal would have been fair, given the numerous food safety offences.
Whitbread were ordered to pay Mateo £24,707.
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