Bury St Edmunds: Disabled mum tells of 15-week wait to start job

AN EX-PARISH councillor who claimed she was discriminated against when the start date for a new job was delayed 15 weeks has had her case quashed.

An employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds heard yesterday how Michelle Maddox, of Hartest, was meant to start work with the Orbit Group on January 11 last year.

However, Mrs Maddox, understood to be 32, did not start her job as a community investment officer with the housing association until May 1.

Mrs Maddox, whose husband Alasdair is a fireman, claimed Orbit had discriminated against her because of a history of depression, which she had flagged up as a disability in a health questionnaire sent with her employment offer.

Orbit, represented by Ian Besant, denied her claim.

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It argued while the delay in her start date was “unfortunate”, it was ensuring it researched her illness properly to fulfil its duty of care to her.

Mrs Maddox, the tribunal heard, remains employed by Orbit at their Stowmarket office.

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During the hearing, Mrs Maddox, who gave birth to a daughter in October last year, said she had missed out on salary payments in the 15-week delay, as well as being forced to spend more than �1,000 on childcare in expectation of starting work.

Mrs Maddox said: “At no time was I given an indication that I would have to wait until May 1 to start my job.”

As a result of the delay, she claimed she was unable to qualify for employer-funded maternity pay.

However, outlining the reasons for the job delay, Orbit’s HR advisor Colin Smith said they had followed its usual procedures appointing her.

He said the job offer was dependent on a number of conditions, including the satisfactory completion of the health check questionnaire.

He said because of her mental health problems, Orbit had to get a statement from her doctor.

But Mrs Maddox’s GP was unable to guarantee she would be fit to undertake the job and said she had experienced difficulties in the past when undertaking nursing training.

Mr Smith told how an independent occupational health consultancy was brought in to assess Mrs Maddox and to establish whether any additional support was required for her to carry out her duties.

That process took from February until April 2010 , he said.

Mr Smith said he had not previously experienced a time gap as great between offer of employment and eventual start date as that endured by Mrs Maddox.

“We went through the normal process,” said Mr Smith. “Some of these delays were down to our third party provider.

“I did as much as I could to move things along.”

Her claim was dismissed.

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