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Jane Cordell Appealing Home Office Decision On Overseas Posting

June 14, 2011

I’ve covered the case of Jane Cordell in some detail, here and elsewhere, so I am very pleased to read that she is appealing the Employment Tribunal’s decision. I hope her appeal is successful.

A deaf British diplomat who took the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to an employment tribunal for revoking a job offer will have her case reconsidered this week.

Jane Cordell, 45, was offered the post of deputy head of mission in Kazakhstan last year, only to have it revoked when the FCO decided that facilitating for her disability would be too expensive.

Ms Cordell, who had worked for the FCO since 2001, challenged the decision at a London employment tribunal, but lost her case when the tribunal ruled that the cost of sending her to Kazakhstan – calculated by the FCO to be around £695,000 for a two year posting and £990,000 for three years – was beyond the “reasonable adjustments” which employers are obliged to make to help disabled staff.

The diplomat, who personally estimates that her posting would cost between £100,00 and £200,000 per year, will have her appeal heard at the Employment Appeal Tribunal this Thursday.

Staff at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is funding Ms Cordell’s appeal, say that the appeal is based on a number of grounds. One argument which is expected to be put forward is that diplomats can request an allowance of up to £25,000 per child, per annum, to cover education costs, without threshold. The EHRC says such allowances make the cost of catering for the deaftness of Ms Cordell, who is childless, seem comparatively more reasonable.

“I appealed the decision because the employment tribunal did not give me enough clarity on the broader question of whether it is ok to set a cost threshold beyond which disabled staff are subjected to scrutiny, but not set a threshold for other groups incurring similar costs,” said Mrs Cordell.

“If disabled people’s careers can in some cases be capped due to cost, where will the UK’s positive disabled role models come from? And what will be the implications if there are none or if they are less diverse?”

A spokesman for the FCO said that it welcomed the outcome of the case, but regretted that it had come to legal action.

He added that whenever possible, the FCO tried to facilitate for disabled workers, and currently had 244 disabled staff, 51 of whom were posted overseas.


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