Does “return to work” mean “return to any work” for the purposes of long-term disability benefit?

No, held the Court of Appeal in ICTS (UK) Limited v Visram.

Mr Visram was an International Security Coordinator for American Airlines at Heathrow. He was TUPE transferred to ICTS while on sick leave. Prior to the transfer he was entitled to receive long-term disability benefit (LTDB) provided by Legal & General (L&G). Post-transfer ICTS ran an LTDB scheme that was underwritten by Canada Life.

L&G refused to continue the LTDB payments to Mr Visram post- transfer because the transfer took place before expiry of the deferred period. Canada Life refused the benefit because the illness occurred prior to the inception of its policy. Mr Visram brought a claim.

At first instance the Employment Tribunal held that it was the primary obligation of ICTS to make the LTDB payments as long as the Claimant satisfied the definition of disability. The EAT upheld this decision.

In the Court of Appeal their Lord Justices Bean, Baker and Phillips held that ICTS was liable for continuation of the payments. The natural construction of “return to work” in the policy terms means return to previous work and not return to any suitable work. Unable to work cannot mean incapacitated from any and every purposeful activity. “If the benefit would only be payable for as long as the individual was unable to perform any full time remunerative employment it would have been easy enough so to provide”.

This blog was first posted on Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Bulletin.