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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Mum’s payout over Carlisle shop's failure to provide toilet

A mother of three has received compensation after she was forced to give up her job because the toilet was too far away.

Karen Sharpe photo
Karen Sharpe

Karen Sharpe, 44, who has the neurological condition multiple sclerosis (MS), told a tribunal she was forced to give up the job she loved at Boots Opticians in Carlisle because her bosses failed to provide a toilet that was near to her first floor work station.

That became necessary after she suffered a relapse in November 2012 which left her with reduced mobility.

She resigned in June the following year because, without a first floor toilet at work, and only able to walk with a stick, she faced regular 10 minute walks to reach the store’s ground floor toilet.

The tribunal upheld her claim and ruled she was a victim of disability-related discrimination.

After a two-day hearing in Carlisle, the panel decided that Mrs Sharpe’s claim to have suffered disability-related discrimination was well founded and said that she was unfairly dismissed.

They awarded her compensation of nearly £14,000.

“But for me it wasn’t ever about the money,” said Mrs Sharpe, of Moorville Drive South, Lowry Hill.

“I was just so incensed that I had to lose a job I had loved all because they wouldn’t provide a toilet. I even sought advice for them from Access to Work, a government organisation which helps companies make changes to workplaces for disabled employees.

“They were basically going to pay 80 per cent of the cost of getting the toilet.

“The only thing stopping me from returning to work was the lack of a toilet.

“Without one on the floor where I worked I faced making long trips across the store and through the stockroom, and I couldn’t physically have handled that.

“I would never have resigned if they at any point had told me that they’d provide the toilet. But I was kept completely and utterly in the dark.

“The stress of it all was making my MS worse.”

Mrs Sharpe said she felt that ultimately the company did not show any desire to adjust her workplace in a way that would make it possible for her to return to her job as a senior optical consultant.

The hearing was told that Boots bosses were working to resolve the problem.

Boots Opticians denied discriminating against Mrs Sharpe or unfairly dismissing her, though the panel’s ruling in her favour was unanimous.

On the firm’s website, the managing director of the health and beauty section says: “Caring for our communities, our customers, patients and colleagues is, quite simply, at the heart of who we are and what we do.”

A Boots spokeswoman said: “At Boots Opticians the wellbeing of our colleagues is of the utmost importance.

“We respect the decision of the employment tribunal, acknowledge that we could have acted quicker and apologise to Mrs Sharpe for any upset this may have caused.”

Mrs Sharpe was represented by Stuart Irving, of the Carlisle law firm Bendles. He said: “We’re delighted with the outcome.”

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