An Industrial Tribunal has found that an Antrim man was forced to quit his job on the grounds of ill health due to a failure to provide him with a suitable vehicle to drive.
William McIlwrath, 49, from Antrim town worked as salesman for Walkers Crisps and was required to drive across Northern Ireland providing crisps and soft drinks to wholesalers.
The tribunal found that cramped conditions in the Volkswagen Caddy van which he was required to drive caused him extreme pain in his heel and lower legs. Mr. McIlwrath began suffering the pain towards the end of 2013 with it becoming increasingly worse across 2014 and 2015.
Despite a series of reports being lodged with Walkers by Mr. McIlwrath’s doctor and their own occupational health departments and physiotherapist, who recommended a change of vehicle, his repeated requests were refused.
Eventually, in May 2015, Mr. McIlwrath felt he had no option but to leave. In his resignation letter he said that he had chosen to resign as “for my own good health and happiness I’ve no choice”.
Awarding Mr. McIlwrath the sum of £20,139.47, the industrial tribunal found that it was the action of the company which had forced him to resign. It stated that “despite the considerable time and opportunity to resolve the situation and change the vehicle, (Walkers) failed to do so and therefore failed to act reasonably in the circumstances”.
Mr. MrIlwrath said: “It was a daunting prospect taking on such a huge employer in court over my treatment. I feel really happy to win as I felt I was fighting for my reputation and the odds were against me”.
His solicitor, Cormac Rice of Paul Doran Law said: “whilst we are delighted at the outcome, it is disappointing that William has had to go to such lengths after a seemingly trivial request to change his vehicle”.
He warned that other companies should consider the consequences of failing to deal properly with requests from staff members who suffer pain and discomfort due to equipment they have provided.