£4.6M Cost of Ignoring Mental Health in the Workplace

The Employment Tribunal found that Ms Wright-Turner, a former council employee, suffered disability discrimination when she was dismissed due to being on sick leave for post-traumatic stress disorder. Ms Wright-Turner was awarded £4,580,577.39 in compensation following a six-year legal battle, leading to one of the highest damages awards of its kind.


Ms Wright-Turner had previously been employed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a Humanitarian Assistance Lead Officer, and as part of this role she supported the response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. Ms Wright-Turner, who had also been diagnosed with ADHD, was diagnosed with PTSD in October 2017 caused by her work dealing with the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Later that year Ms Wright-Turner started a new a role as Director of Public Service Reform at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham council. Ms Wright-Turner had informed her new employer about her PTSD which she explained came as a result of her Grenfell work and that she was having counselling for this.

From the outset of her new employment, it became apparent that the new department faced significant issues with finance and budgets. Ms Wright-Turner had a heavy workload and was working long hours late into the night for an extended duration. It was clear that there was not enough staff to carry out the department’s work.

Ms Wright-Turner confided in a few colleagues at the pub after work about her current emotional state. She expressed feeling drained and under pressure, citing a chronic shortage of staff in her department. She disclosed her struggles with mental health and voiced worries about the potential repercussions of taking sick leave in advance of completing her probationary period. She felt that the Chief Executive of the council was questioning her abilities as a result of her ADHD. Overwhelmed and disorientated, there came a time where Ms Wright-Turner was with a colleague and she became increasingly incoherent, hyperventilated, and refused to leave. Concerned about her well-being, her colleague took her to A&E where she was assessed as being depressed, suicidal and traumatised.

Subsequently on 3 May 2018, Ms Wright-Turner was signed off by her GP for one month due to her PTSD and acute anxiety. This was confirmed in a fit note provided to her supervisor. Her sick leave was later extended. On 10 May 2018, Ms Wright-Turner was informed that her probationary period would be extended by three months, referring to areas of her performance that needed improvement.

Ms Wright-Turner was later dismissed from her position whilst on sick leave with a letter which stated that she was not able to complete her probationary period satisfactorily. The letter made no reference to Ms Wright-Turner’s sickness absence which spanned the entire duration of the extended probationary period, and she was not invited to a formal meeting to discuss her potential dismissal on performance grounds. She was also not provided with an opportunity to appeal the decision.

Ms Wright-Turner consequently lodged a complaint the following month in the Employment Tribunal, alleging direct disability discrimination, harassment, a failure to make reasonable adjustments, and victimisation.


In 2021 the Employment Tribunal concluded that Ms Wright-Turner endured direct disability discrimination and harassment. The Tribunal decided that Ms Wright-Turner’s dismissal was unfavourable treatment linked to her disability-related sickness absence and the reason she was dismissed without any formal procedure or process was because she was on sick leave. Ms Wright-Turner was not warned of her risk of dismissal or given the opportunity to discuss her performance before the decision was taken. The Tribunal determined that the deliberate omission in her dismissal letter of any mention of Ms Wright-Turner’s sickness or conditions, which she relies on as disabilities, was intentional to prevent any inference that her dismissal was attributed to her mental health or sickness related absence. The decision regarding the damages award was announced on 13 March 2024, granting Ms Wright-Turner £4,580,577.39.

This award included exemplary damages which are extremely uncommon. They serve to penalise behaviour that is deemed oppressive, arbitrary, or unconstitutional rather than solely compensating the victim for their losses. During the remedy hearing, the Tribunal determined that the consequences of Ms Wright-Turner’s termination were profoundly severe. Her health had been so detrimentally affected by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s unlawful actions that it is likely she would never be able to work again.

Learning points

This case highlights the importance for employers to provide necessary support and have resources in place to foster a supportive work environment for their employee’s mental health. It is also crucial for employers to ensure that they are providing their staff with relevant training and maintaining well-documented policies and procedures to prevent disability discrimination against their employees.

The substantial award by the Tribunal sets a clear and powerful message to employers on the risks associated with failing to appropriately accommodate an employee’s disability. Alongside this, it’s also a clear reminder to engage in a proper and formal procedure before any performance dismissal, when a disability is involved.

How we can help

For further information or to discuss the issues raised within this case, please ​contact us to speak to a member of our Employment Team.

Darren Smith
Partner, Employment
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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