Former B&M worker settles disability discrimination case

Harvey Spence Credit: Equality Commission

A former B&M worker has settled a disability discrimination case against his past employer.

Harvey Spence, who has a learning disability, took a case alleging disability harassment against B&M Retail Limited.

Supported by the Equality Commission, Mr Spence, 19, from east Belfast, settled the case for £5,000 without admission of liability.

Mr Spence said he worked for B&M for 18 months in a stock-filling role and had enjoyed the job.

However, he said that changed when he received "disability harassment" from some of his colleagues.

He claims he was excluded from conversations, subjected to derogatory remarks, was constantly told he was useless and that no other company would want him because he was stupid and that everything about him was bad.

"I liked going out to work and earning my own money, it was important to me," he said.

"After a year in my job, some new people I worked with started being horrible to me and it became really hard and very upsetting. I dreaded going to work.

"Some of the people I worked with wouldn't speak to me at all and others would tell me to go away by saying horrible things, they used really bad language and called me names.

"I found it hard to stand up for myself and in the end I had to leave my job as it was making me feel very sick.

"I got so worried about how they would treat me if I went back in. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get another job because I'm really afraid other people will treat me like that again."

Dr Evelyn Collins, chief executive of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, expressed concern at Mr Spence's experience.

She said the 37.3% employment rate for disabled people in Northern Ireland is the lowest of all UK regions.

"This needs to improve," she said.

"Harvey's experience at work highlights that much remains to be done to challenge barriers to employment for many disabled people and to ensure they can secure and retain paid employment.

"Employers have a responsibility to provide and promote a good and harmonious working environment. Harvey did not experience that, he felt he had no option but to go off on sick leave and then it appears that no one contacted him to check if he was OK or to offer support.

"This is exactly why employers must have procedures and policies in place to allow them to deal promptly and seriously with complaints of discrimination or harassment, and ensure that their staff know how to access these and that their managers are appropriately trained to use them."