Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya denies discriminating against disabled former employee as she was 'unaware she was having issues'

Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya told a tribunal she would have done all she could to support an employee over her medical needs - if she had known about them.

Thursday, 4th April 2019, 1:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th April 2019, 1:32 pm
Fiona Onasanya entering court. Photo: Terry Harris

The tribunal at Cambridge County Court heard Ms Onasanya's former case worker Jan Goodenough (61) claims she was discriminated against while she worked for Ms Onasanya because she did not have access to toilets at the constituency office at the Eco Innovation Centre, and during her time working for Ms Onasanya the lift was broken for a short period.

The office was based on the first floor, and the only ladies toilets in the building were on the ground floor or the second floor.

Ms Goodenough has told the hearing she suffers from arthritis, IBS and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Fiona Onasanya entering court. Photo: Terry Harris

Giving evidence to the hearing today, Ms Onasanya said she was 'mortified' to hear the problems Ms Goodenough had described. She said: "If I had have known about your issues I would have done all I could have to help.

"You could have worked on the ground floor. We met with disabled clients on the ground floor."

Ms Onasanya said she had not dealt with Ms Goodenough's job application or interview and had delegated it to office manager Robert Grayston.

She said to avoid Ms Goodenough working on her own Mr Grayston could have taken calls on the ground floor as well.

Ms Goodenough also said she was not given the flexibility with her working hours she needed.

She was employed on a part time basis with her original contract saying she would work 22 and a half hours - although it was later agreed she could work for 20 hours a week.

Ms Goodenough said she asked to work five hours a day for four days a week - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, as she could not work on Wednesdays.

However, Ms Onasanya told her she had to work seven and a half hours on Monday and Tuesdays because she needed cover in the office on those days. Another case worker was able to cover Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and Ms Onasanya said Ms Goodenough was told she could make up the rest of the hours during the rest of the week.

Ms Goodenough told the hearing she could not tell when she would be well enough to work, and her chronic fatigue syndrome meant she was unable to work two consecutive days with seven and a half hours, without needing a full day resting afterwards.

Ms Onasanya said: "I needed cover on Monday and Tuesdays in the office to answer phone calls and to meet with constituents."

Ms Onasanya also told the hearing about how she came to select the office.

She said she had an original shortlist of around 12 offices, but some were unsuitable because of the price, location and accessibility.

She said another office she looked at had two lifts, but no staircase inside, and would not have been suitable if there had been a fire.

She said she had chosen the Eco Innovation Centre because of the lift, and the fact it had a wide staircase, with handrails on both sides. She also said she had arranged for an 'evac chair' to be installed to help anyone with mobility issues to leave the building safely in the event of a fire.

The hearing is set to finish tomorrow.

Ms Onasanya denies discrimination.