DWP lost more disability discrimination cases than any other UK employer, investigation reveals

Department paid out nearly £1m between 2016 and 2019, Panorama investigation finds

Photo: Johnny Green/PA Archive/PA Images

By Eleanor Langford

09 Mar 2020

DWP has lost more disability discrimination cases than any other UK employer, resulting in almost £1m in payouts.

In total, 134 cases of discrimination against disabled employees was brought against the Department for Work and Pensions between 2016 and 2019, a BBC Panorama investigation found.

It lost 17 of these cases, 13% of the total, far higher than the national average of 3% of cases lost by employers.


These claims have resulted in £953,000 of payouts to disabled employees, £713,000 of which was settled out of court across 45 cases, according to Freedom of Information requests.

Meanwhile, employees who won their claims received £240,000 in settlements after employment tribunals decided in their favour. 

The figures drew criticism from leading disability discrimination lawyer Karen Jackson.

She said: “I am always a little bit wary of statistics, but I think in this particular case, the numbers are quite compelling, and the level of claims being brought for disability discrimination against DWP is quite high.

“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.”

Incidents identified by Panorama included a woman who was sacked by DWP for taking too much sick leave, despite having serious health problems.

In another case, a man was fired after working for the department for 30 years for missing work due to a severe asthma attack.

In both cases, the civilservants won at an employment tribunal.

In response to Panorama’s findings, a DWP spokesperson said: “Fair and respectful treatment is a right and we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.

“DWP has a diverse workforce of more than 80,000 staff and we are proud that 11,000 identify as disabled. We are therefore shocked that, when presented in this way, the data shows us in this light.

“We have worked hard to ensure staff always have a route – informally and formally – to raise any concerns with someone they trust and while cases brought against us come from less than 2% of our staff with disabilities, this figure is still too high.

“We have made significant progress over the last few years to support employees with disabilities. We have improved how we manage absence and resolve complaints, and have introduced 1600 mental health first aiders – but we know there is always more we can do.

“We have instigated a review of our processes and actions following tribunal cases, to ensure all our employees are treated fairly and with respect."

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