A disabled DWP worker nearly died on the job. So his boss called him a ‘whinger’.

Department for Work and Pensions Logo DWP
Steve Topple

A disabled man employed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) nearly died at work after he claimed his managers didn’t take his disability seriously.

But a tribunal just awarded him £26,000 in damages after DWP emails revealed his boss called him a ‘whinger’ who didn’t deserve them “to be nice to him”.

A life-or-death incident

As the Daily Post reported, Barrie Caulcutt from Caernarfon, Wales, has worked for the DWP for 35 years. He lives with anxiety, asthma, and eczema and has survived prostate cancer. In May 2013 the DWP moved Caulcutt from his finance job to a customer-facing role. This was against the advice of his GP. Caulcutt had advised his bosses five times that the new job was causing his health to deteriorate. He says his concerns were not addressed.

But in March 2014 an incident at work, where Caulcutt’s anxiety was triggered by being asked to attend a training session in a small room, led to an asthma attack. He was rushed to hospital and “could have died”, according to his union representative.

The snooping DWP: ‘stop whinging’

The DWP’s response to this was to firstly give him a written warning. It claimed he took 2.5 more sick days than he was entitled to. One email from his manager to a colleague in September 2014, shown to the tribunal, said:

Let him whinge like crap and raise it in his ET (employment tribunal). He doesn’t deserve us to be nice to him.

The Daily Post reported that:

Another [manager] had said she was sick of his concerns. In another email, one boss had said his grievance was ‘absolute bloody nonsense’.

Then 18 months ago, the DWP moved him to a different office. But the ‘intolerable‘ treatment continued, with his bosses using photos from his Facebook page to question how disabled he really was. Notes revealed the DWP said:

He is complaining about his disability, yet he attends a pop concert.

Had enough

So, Caulcutt took the DWP to an employment tribunal, on the grounds of discrimination under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, plus claims of harassment and victimisation. The tribunal dismissed the latter two, but awarded Caulcutt £26,000. It agreed the DWP discriminated against him by not making reasonable adjustments for his disability.

A DWP spokesperson told the Mirror:

We take the welfare of our staff extremely seriously and also expect the highest standards of behaviour from all employees. We will be reviewing the tribunal’s findings.

Caulcutt said:

My life is ruined; my health is ruined. I asked for help and all they did was bully me.

They have let me down and the DWP down because they should have been helping me and should have helped a disabled colleague. It’s wrong.

By hook or by crook they wanted me out… even if it was in a box.

But given the way the DWP treats its claimants, it’s little surprise that it treats its staff in a similar way; that is, appallingly.

Human rights violations

In the past 22 months, there have been five international reports accusing the government and DWP of breaching various legal agreements on the human rights of sick and disabled people.

One UN committee ruled that successive Conservative-led governments had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people by meting out “grave” and “systematic” violations of their human rights. It also found that the DWP “processed rather than listened to or understood” disabled people.

But people like Caulcutt may not be able to claim the DWP has breached their human rights for much longer. Because, as The Canary previously reported, it has just won a court case, stopping claimants being able to argue human rights grounds in tribunals against the DWP. Lawyers have warned that the ruling in favour of the DWP could also affect employment tribunals, of which Caulcutt’s was one.

When the DWP treats one of its own in such a discriminatory manner, it is little wonder that international bodies like the UN are calling it and the government out for violating disabled people’s most basic human rights. The DWP needs a culture shift, and quickly.

Get Involved!

– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), fighting for disabled people’s rights.

– Write to your MP, asking them to support the UN committee’s findings.

Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia

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