Receptionist with ‘phobia of people’ wins £56k compensation for unfair dismissal

·Freelance Writer
Sacramenta D’Silva claimed she was 'petrified' of working with members of the public and colleagues full time. (Facebook)
Sacramenta D’Silva claimed she was 'petrified' of working with members of the public and colleagues full-time. (Facebook)

An NHS receptionist who argued that she was unfairly sacked over her “phobia of the public” has won more than £56,000 at an employment tribunal.

Sacramenta D’Silva worked at the chest clinic of Croydon Health Services but claimed she was “petrified” of working with members of the public and colleagues full-time.

D’Silva, who worked at the NHS for 18 years, asked to be moved to the appointments booking team in the back office but bosses insisted her role was “patient facing”, the tribunal heard.

After she went on sick leave D’Silva was sacked for being unable to do the job, but the tribunal has now concluded that she was unfairly dismissed and awarded her £56,684 in compensation.

D’Silva began working at the clinic in London in 2003 but was forced to take time off after suffering from stress and anxiety.

The hearing was told she returned to work in 2017 following a long absence and believed she was going to be offered a role in the back office as part of a phased return.

Sacramenta D’Silva worked at the chest clinic of Croydon Health Services. (Wikipedia)
Sacramenta D’Silva worked at the chest clinic of Croydon Health Services. (Wikipedia)

However, she became “very upset” when she learned that this role was only temporary and that she would eventually be returned to a “face to face reception role”.

D'Silva said she repeatedly told her managers she felt unable to work with patients and wanted to stay in the back office but bosses told her there was not enough work for her there and insisted she return to reception.

The tribunal was told that one manager remarked: "I do not know if there is a resolution as [she] does not want to carry out the role she is employed to do."

She went on sick leave again in 2018 after it was made clear the job was “100% patient facing" and she would have to be redeployed.

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The hearing accepted that D’Silva’s health condition “was exacerbated and/or her recovery delayed by the failure to redeploy”.

An occupational health doctor reported that D'Silva wanted to return to work but was "petrified" of having to deal with patients, and her anxiety about working with patients was described as "public phobia”.

Ruling that D’Silva was unfairly dismissed, Anna Corrigan, an employment judge, said: "The (trust) had the duty to make reasonable adjustments or... to take reasonable steps to investigate alternative work.

"No one from the trust identified potential suitable vacancies or discussed them with Mrs D'Silva. Had vacancies been identified to her and she had been supported to be redeployed into one of them, the likelihood is that she would have returned to work much earlier.

"It was not reasonable to adopt an approach that she had had long enough already in the redeployment period."

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