Under the Equality Act 2010 employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable staff to overcome a substantial disadvantage they are suffering in the workplace.
The duty can arise where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage by:
Sharon was employed by a large multi-site company. She had worked for them for over 30 years since leaving school. She had a long standing mental health issue and was finding her drive to work tiring and stressful. However, she loved her job and she had also been able to agree an arrangement whereby she worked in an office close to home one day a week, so she didn’t seek a transfer nearer to home.
In early 2013 the company reviewed their work practices and decided to reduce Sharon’s team of 10 down to 3. They also decided to locate all of the team in another location which would be a more stressful commute for Sharon. When Sharon heard where it was she made it clear she wasn’t interested and would rather be put in the redeployment pool than be allocated to work there. Despite reminding the company about her illness they proceeded to include Sharon in their selection process and decided she was one of the best three employees. They insisted Sharon had to work at the new location.
Sharon came to see our employment lawyers in Brighton for advice. We identified that she was a disabled person for the purposes of the Equality Act and the company’s procedure constituted a PCP under the Act. We advised that the company ought to adjust their process, withdraw their insistence that she go to the new location and allow her to apply for jobs within the company nearer to home. Sharon raised a formal grievance on that basis and it was only at that point that they referred her to Occupational Health. Their advice was that Sharon was “fit to work” in the new location but that travelling there would probably make the management of her mental health condition more difficult. The company focused on that phrase and maintained their insistence that Sharon had to take the new job. This continued even through a grievance appeal.
We lodged an Employment Tribunal claim on the basis that the company was discriminating against Sharon by failing to make a reasonable adjustment. The company defended the claim all the way to a hearing.
After hearing the evidence the Employment Tribunal concluded that the company should have allowed Sharon to apply for jobs that were otherwise reserved for people seeking redeployment. Sharon had gone off from work sick during the period and the Employment Tribunal awarded her loss of earnings and £6,000 for injury to feelings.