When an employee becomes disabled, it may result in that employee being unable to fulfil their employment duties to the same standard they were capable of before their disability. Where the employee is disabled, the employer has an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that the employee can continue their work without disadvantage.
In deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable the Employment Tribunal will take a number of factors into account. It is important that employers look at what steps might be effective and practical, having regard to the employer’s budget and finance options as well as the employee’s needs. We have considered this in our earlier blog ‘what is meant by the duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’?’.
A 2017 case looked at the extent to which potential adjustments would be considered as ‘reasonable’, and how far the employer may be required to go in terms of the number of adjustments made. A disabled employee had successfully claimed for disability discrimination in the Employment Tribunal against her employer. On appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) looked at the adjustments the employer had already made to adjust for the employee’s disability, as well as the circumstances of her disability.
The Respondent had dyspraxia and dyslexia, which affected her ability to meet the demands of her workload. Her employer agreed to bring in specialist equipment and a static desk to help her. Even with these adjustments, the Respondent still found that she was required to work longer hours than her colleagues to complete a similar amount of work. Her employer continued to request the same workload of her. The EAT found disability discrimination, despite the adjustments that had been made. There existed a provision, criterion or practice, as well as a disadvantage to the Respondent. The EAT focused on whether her employer had taken such steps as were reasonable. It was noted that prior to the Employment Tribunal claim the Respondent had not requested a reduced workload. However, the EAT still found that the employer could have taken further reasonable steps to ensure the Respondent was not disadvantaged as a result of her disability. By stopping at the new equipment, which did not solve the problem, the employer had failed in its duty to consider all reasonable adjustments; it had failed to take reasonable steps to remove the employee’s disadvantage.
- It is important that businesses are proactive in their efforts to make reasonable adjustments. It is not enough to rely on only those suggestions made by the employee themselves. As a matter of good practice, businesses should have regular individual consultations with disabled employees to ensure that the adjustments the business has made have removed the disadvantage and are enabling the employees to comply with their employment duties.
Case ref: Home Office (UK Visas & Immigration) v Kuranchie UKEAT/0202/16/BA
Harry Taylor was a J B Montagu Scholar at Middle Temple. He was called to the Bar as a non-practicing barrister in 2014. Before joining Helix Law Harry gained commercial experience at a Tax advisory firm. Harry is currently studying for a Masters degree in Employment Law.
This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice.