Tue 20 Dec 2022

Impact on other employees is a relevant factor when considering whether an adjustment is reasonable

A reasonable adjustment should not be "a vehicle for giving an advantage over and above removing the particular disadvantage" according to EAT.

In Hillaire v Luton Borough Council the claimant was unable to attend an interview for a role in his employer's new structure, claiming he was too unwell.  Thirteen other candidates were interviewed for the same role.  The claimant was subsequently dismissed for reason of redundancy.  He brought claims before the tribunal including one of a failure to make reasonable adjustments, asserting that the requirement to attend interview was a provision, criterion or practice that put him at a substantial disadvantage.  He should instead have been slotted into the role without interview.

An employment tribunal dismissed the reasonable adjustment claim.  It found that he was not placed at a substantial disadvantage and that he could have attended the interview had he wanted to do so.  On appeal however the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) disagreed, finding that the tribunal had failed to consider the claimant's ability to fully participate in an interview, rather than just his ability to attend it.  However, on the evidence it was concluded that the reason he did not attend for interview was because he believed that the redundancy process was simply a way of managing his dismissal, while disguising the real reason for it.  His lack of attendance at the interview was not therefore for a reason connected to his disability.

Although not necessary for the outcome of the case, the EAT went on to make observations about whether slotting the claimant into the role would have been a reasonable adjustment.  In this case they concluded that although doing so would have alleviated any disadvantage to the claimant (had he been able to demonstrate substantial advantage due to disability) it would not have been a reasonable adjustment.  Slotting the claimant into the role would have disproportionately disadvantaged the other employees.  In the circumstances, making such an adjustment would not have been reasonable.

This judgment makes clear that in determining whether an adjustment is reasonable it is not only the needs of the disabled person that need to be considered.  The full circumstances of each case need to be considered, including the impact of any adjustment on others.  That includes considering whether the adjustment is reasonable in levelling out the playing field for the disabled person, or whether it goes too far and instead becomes an "advantageous adjustment".

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