Does the employer’s obligation to make reasonable adjustments extend to matters not related to an employee’s disability?

20 January 2023 | Jatinder Tara

What does the law say on reasonable adjustments?

The provisions within sections 20–22 and the applicable Schedule of the Equality Act 2010, impose a duty on the employer to make reasonable adjustments to any provision, criteria, or practice that puts a disabled employee at a particular disadvantage and failure to do so can give rise to substantial damages claim for disability discrimination, e.g., Bannister v. The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, an employee was awarded nearly £75,300 in compensation after their employer failed to make reasonable adjustments.

To avoid matters reaching the employment tribunal, employers need to review their provisions, criteria, or practices to ensure that disabled employees are not disadvantaged but subject to what the EAT decided in the case of Hilaire v. Luton Borough Council.

In the case of Hilaire v. Luton Borough Council, Hilaire (H) suffered from depression, somatic syndrome and arthritis, such health issues falling within the meaning of a disability under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.

As a result of the business restructuring, employees were required to apply for positions and would be assessed via an interview process so as to avoid redundancies.

(H) was off sick over the application process and expressed concerns that he struggled with this process and was not given sufficient support. As a consequence, the employer gave (H) extra time and support with the interview process.

(H) informed his employer that he would not be attending any interviews or meetings as he was sick, but as other employees had already been interviewed and matters needed to be progressed, the employer placed a deadline to attend the interview which (H) failed to attend, resulting in (H) being dismissed on grounds of redundancy.

What was (H)’s claim after being dismissed?

(H) claimed disability discrimination as the provision, criterion, or practice (PCP), i.e., the application and interview process placed him at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to other applicants in light of his disability and thus he should have been slotted into a role without an interview.

What did the Employment Appeal Tribunal decide?

The EAT found (H)’s disability caused him issues with memory and concentration levels that extended to social interactions, which would have hindered his ability to participate fully in the interview process hence giving rise to a substantial disadvantage. However, (H)'s claim for reasonable adjustment was denied and one factor relied upon by the EAT was that (H) had indicated that even if he had not been off sick for work-related stress, he still would not have attended the interview whereas (H) had previously attended an appeal hearing over sickness absence whilst off sick, thus (H)'s decision not to participate in the interview process had nothing to do with his disability or facing a substantial disadvantage in the interview process has a reasonable adjustment is not a tool to give a disabled employee an advantage over and above than removing the particular disadvantage.

The article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as

legal advice. If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our free advice line team at 0116 274 9193.

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