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Case law: Employer’s failure to follow its disability policy made it more likely it would lose ‘reasonable adjustments’ claim

Employers considering reasonable adjustments for disabled workers should follow relevant recommendations in their disability policies, otherwise they will be more likely to be found to have failed to make reasonable adjustments, according to a recent ruling.

May 2019

This update was published in Legal Alert - May 2019

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

An employee’s disability was aggravated by stress. Her employer’s Occupational Health recommended she be allocated a dedicated parking space to reduce the stress of having to find a space every day. However, the employer failed to allocate her a space, and she claimed disability discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Employers are legally required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled employees to alleviate the effects of disadvantages they suffer because of their disability. They may have to change how things are done, make physical changes at work or provide equipment or help to the employee. Whether an adjustment is ‘reasonable’ depends on the circumstances.

The EAT found that the fact the employer’s own disability policy made reference to priority allocation of parking spaces to disabled employees was relevant in deciding whether the failure to allocate a space in this particular case was reasonable - even though the policy said the decision was at the employer’s discretion. The EAT said an adjustment recommended in an employer’s own policy was an adjustment that is likely, at least as a starting point, to be considered a reasonable adjustment. It was, therefore, an adjustment that should be made unless there was a good, cogent reason for not making it.

The EAT said the ET had not taken the fact of the employer’s policy properly into account. This this amounted to an error of law and it sent the case back to the ET to reconsider.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers considering reasonable adjustments for disabled workers must follow recommendations in their own disability policies when doing so, otherwise it will be more likely they will have failed to make reasonable adjustments.

Case ref: Linsley v HM Revenue and Customs UKEAT/0150/18/JOJ

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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