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Case law: Employers should make prompt 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled employees

An employer who made 'reasonable adjustments' for a disabled employee, but did not do it quickly enough, has had to pay compensation for disability discrimination following a recent ruling.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - October 2012

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Employers are therefore advised to ensure reasonable adjustments for disabled employees are both identified and implemented as soon as possible, or risk having to pay compensation for disability discrimination.

In October 2010, an employee working as cabin crew fell ill during a long-haul flight and was subsequently removed from flying duties, on reduced pay, until he could be medically assessed.

The following July his employer's occupational health department reported him fit for short-haul flights. His application to transfer to a short-haul airline was rejected as there was not enough work for him, and because the transfer would not help rehabilitate him for long-haul flights.

Employers are under a legal duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled employees. The cabin crew member brought a grievance, claiming that a transfer would be a reasonable adjustment, and claimed disability discrimination. His employer reconsidered his application and transferred him to the short-haul airline but whilst the decision was made in March 2012, he did not start flying again until May.

The Employment Tribunal ruled transferring him to short-haul flights was a reasonable adjustment. However, it also ruled the employer should have made the adjustment as soon as possible when the employee had been assessed as fit for short-haul flights. This could have been done by September 2011.

The employer's delay was unreasonable and amounted to a failure to make reasonable adjustments. The employee was awarded £8,500 compensation.

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