IT specialist who had been on sick leave for 15 years sues company for not getting a raise

Sick leave is an employee right, but what happens if it becomes indefinite? Does the company have an obligation to pay?

For UK man Ian Clifford, a former worker at the US’s tech pioneer IBM, this became a reality. Clifford has reportedly been medically retired for 15 years.

He nevertheless continued to get around R1.3 million every year as part of his disability plan. He attempted to sue the tech corporation for “disability discrimination,’’ arguing that his pay had not been ”generous enough’’ for keeping up with inflation.

According to Oddity Central, he started out at Lotus Development in 2000, five years after it was bought by IBM.

He went on sick leave in September 2008 and did not return until 2013, when he first complained about his holiday pay for the previous five years and the lack of a wage rise.

IBM finally gave the IT specialist a “compromise agreement” that enabled him to be placed on the company’s disability plan with fixed pay and no commitment to work until recuperation, retirement or death.

Based on the disability plan, Clifford has been paid 75 percent of his agreed income for the previous 15 years, as well as about R208,590 to satisfy his 2013 vacation pay issues.

In 2022, the IT worker sought to sue IBM in a UK employment court, saying that he had been treated unfairly by his employer.

“The point of the plan was to give security to employees not able to work; that was not achieved if payments were forever frozen,’’ Clifford was quoted as saying in court.

According to Employment Judge Paul Housego, his argument was unsustainable because the arrangement primarily benefits the disabled.

He added that the plan is not more generous is not due to handicap prejudice. Ultimately, his case was thrown out of court for this reason. –IOL

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