Virgin breaches disability law

01 July 2005

A Virgin Trains driver has been awarded £41,000 damages by Exeter Employment Tribunal for Virgin’s failure to allow him to return to work while he was recovering from an injury sustained in a train crash.

Virgin"s Plymouth Cross-Country line was found to be in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in not allowing Martyn Hazelhurst to return to light duties after an operation on a knee injury caused by the crash.

Virgin told Mr Hazelhurst that he had been "stood down" inspite of his GP"s recommendation that he could return to work. Virgin also suggested that he apply to his GP for a further sick note, which his GP refused to give.

Virgin was ordered to pay Mr Hazelhurst compensation for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

The tribunal took the unusual step of saying it would make recommendations in relation to the "adjustments" that Virgin should take under the DDA to allow Mr Hazelhurst to return to work. 

Martyn Hazelhurst said: "I only went to my trade union as a last resort after I was unhappy with my High Street claims firm. That was a mistake. ASLEF"s legal service and Thompsons Solicitors were tremendous in sorting my situation out. I"m delighted with the result, but more importantly I"m really looking forward to getting back to driving trains."

Keith Norman, the acting General Secretary of train driver’s union ASLEF, said that while he was pleased the union had won the case, he regretted that it had ever been necessary. 

‘This proves that Virgin is not above the law,’ he said. But, he added, ‘No amount of money really compensates for the injuries Mr Hazelhurst has suffered. Our union is pressing for technology to be placed in cabs that will transmit pictures of the line two miles ahead. If this technology – which is in daily use in Hong Kong – had been in place, Mr Hazelhurst’s accident would never have happened.’

Vaughan Gething, Martyn Hazelhurst"s lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors said: "This is a positive approach by the employment tribunal exactly as envisaged by the disability legislation. Virgin will hopefully respond accordingly and both they and Martyn will have a productive future together."

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