A Deaf Jobseeker Ill-Treated by Jobcentre Officials for Years Awarded £50K

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An Employment Tribunal has awarded a deaf jobseeker ill-treated by Jobcentre officials £50K after having suffered for many years. The Employment Tribunal heard that the deaf man was ill-treated by being denied access to BSL interpreters and video calls and receiving unfair sanctions.

Read on to find out more about the facts of the case and the Employment Tribunal’s judgment.

What Exactly Happened?

Paul Rimmer is profoundly deaf. He communicates primarily through the use of British Sign Language (“BSL”), has no spoken English, and has limited reading and writing skills. He attended the Park Place Jobcentre in Leeds between 2017 and 2023 in an attempt to gain assistance in finding work.

On numerous occasions, Jobcentre officials failed to provide Mr Rimmer with the support he required to seek employment or communicate effectively with staff successfully. In 2017, Mr Rimmer was sanctioned for being unable to provide adequate evidence that he was actively seeking work following a meeting involving a poorly qualified BSL interpreter.

Deaf Jobseeker Ill-Treated by Not Being Provided Jobcentre Support During COVID-19

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Jobcentre officials failed to provide Mr Rimmer with any support whatsoever, denying him access to video calls despite their availability. Mr Rimmer complained about the inadequate support he was receiving from Jobcentre officials; however, no action was taken for the deaf jobseeker.

In a further effort to find a job, Mr Rimmer attempted to be referred to a more intensive support programme. A Disability Employment Advisor who was aware of the former complaints of Mr Rimmer tried to block the referral, stating that he required “firm” treatment from work coaches. He also suggested that further sanctions should be imposed.

Despite never having met Mr Rimmer, the advisor told colleagues that his deafness was “not a significant barrier to work” and implied that his complaints were intended to “sabotage” Jobcentre officials’ attempts to assist him in finding work.

Read: Senior Teacher at Wetherby Prep School Unfairly Dismissed After He ‘Fell Asleep’ During Classes

On the advice of Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre, Mr Rimmer brought a claim against the Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) for disability discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010.

What Did the Employment Tribunal Say?

Paul Rimmer’s claim was heard by Judge Joanna Wade in the Leeds Employment Tribunal in April 2024. In giving his evidence, Mr Rimmer told the tribunal that he felt they didn’t want to help him because it was expensive and difficult. He further added, “I also feel that most DWP staff do not understand the difficulties facing me as a profoundly deaf person.”

Deaf Jobseeker Was On The Receiving End of ‘Oppressive Behaviour’

Having considered the facts of the case, the tribunal ruled that the deaf jobseeker was ill-treated by the Jobcentre. The Tribunal found that Jobcentre officials had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Mr Rimmer and that the treatment he received from the Disability Employment Advisor constituted “oppressive behaviour”, all contrary to the Equality Act 2010.

Read: There’s Zero Progress to Bridge Disability Pay Gap, Says TUC

Speaking about the behaviour in question, Judge Wade stated, “It was also conduct which deterred legitimate complaint from a vulnerable person… this is the sort of… conduct which anyone in receipt of services from a job centre would fear, that if job coaches or others are challenged, there will be reprisals.”

Speaking about the ruling, Mr Rimmer said: “I am proud of what I have achieved and hope that it helps other people as well as myself. I know that the same thing happens at other job centres, and I hope things will change more widely.”

Support For The Deaf Jobseeker Was Limited as His Needs Weren’t Fully Understood

Chief executive at Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre Nick Whittingham has voiced his thoughts about the deaf jobseeker being ill-treated and expressed his concern about the prevalence of this kind of treatment. He stated that: “the indications are that failings are systemic and that provision for supporting deaf and other disabled people is limited both by funding constraints and by an institutional failure to understand, or even attempt to understand their needs.”

Cloisters Chambers barrister John Horan agrees, stating that the tribunal ruling should be “a wake-up call to ministers responsible for the Jobseeker’s programme”. He said: “A Disability Employment Advisor, who should be there to assist disabled claimants, has been… actively targeting disabled people and attempting to block access to assistance programmes, and even to the benefit itself because the claimant had raised legitimate complaints.”

Read: Is it Normal To Be Ghosted By a Recruiter?: Diving into The Phenomenon of Recruiter Ghosting

In response to this case where a deaf jobseeker was ill-treated, the DWP has stated: “We are committed to providing accessible services. Most people claiming health and disability benefits report having a positive experience, and where customers need assistance, we endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to meet their individual needs.”

If you have concerns about discrimination, the employment law specialists at Redmans Solicitors will be happy to help. Contact one of our friendly and approachable employment law experts today for a free, initial consultation.

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