Rees Mogg's WFH note could be 'illegal harassment' of disabled staff, says Daniel Barnett

24 April 2022, 13:03 | Updated: 24 April 2022, 13:12

By Tim Dodd

LBC's legal expert Daniel Barnett has said that Jacob-Rees Mogg's note to civil servants encouraging them back to the office could constitute "unlawful harassment" for disabled staff.

It comes after the minister for government efficiency was criticised for leaving "crass, demeaning" notes on the empty desks of civil servants to stop them working from home. 

Notes, printed on government paper with Mr Rees-Mogg's title, were left in Whitehall workspaces with the message: "Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon."

On the Legal Hour, LBC's legal expert Daniel Barnett said: "Let's ignore the absurdity of pinning that to the desks of people who aren't at work, and so by definition won't see it... I'm not convinced it's poor management actually, it's politely phrased.

"But for a small proportion of the workforce it might actually have been illegal. It might be unlawful harassment. I'm talking about people with disabilities where the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act requires the employer to let them work from home."

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Daniel continued: "The legal test for disability harassment is if the note creates an 'intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment' for the employee on a ground related to their disability. And I think for some it will.

"If the notes were handed out indiscriminately, and no care was taken to avoid giving them to those with disabilities which impact on their ability to come to the office then Jacob Rees-Mogg may well find himself the respondent in a disability discrimination claim."

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