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Reasonable Adjustments

The Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Linsley v HMRC has considered an employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Background

The Claimant worked for HMRC. She suffered from ulcerative colitis which, among other things, can make a person need to go to the toilet urgently and is exacerbated by stress.  It was accepted that this was a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

HMRC have a car parking policy that states priority is given to those who require a parking space as a reasonable adjustment.

An Occupational Health report in 2012 stated that the Claimant would benefit from a dedicated parking space at the site where she worked so that she could access a toilet quickly. A dedicated parking space was provided for her.  However, when the Claimant moved sites in 2016, she was not provided with a dedicated parking space. Instead, the Claimant was told she could have a parking space near the toilets if she failed to get a space near the building on a first come first serve basis but this would require her to sign paperwork with the office. Alternatively, she could park in an unauthorized zone (and not be reprimanded for doing so) but she would have to move her vehicle later.

The Claimant later went off sick with stress. An Occupational Health report highlighted that the failure of HMRC to put in place the dedicated car parking space at her relocated place of work had caused stress which in turn had aggravated her condition.

The Claimant brought a claim of disability discrimination for failure to make reasonable adjustments.

The Law

Under section 20 of the Equality Act 2010, where a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled, it must take such steps as is reasonable to avoid the disadvantage.

Decision

The Employment Tribunal held that HMRC had not breached its duty as the alternative arrangements put in place were reasonable adjustments. It held that although HMRC had not followed its own car parking policy, this was discretionary.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed. The car parking policy was significant and this should not have been dismissed because it was non-contractual. An adjustment that is recommended in the employer’s own policy (contractual or non-contractual) is one that is likely to be reasonable.  Furthermore, the Tribunal had failed to focus on the particular disadvantage of the Claimant, the Tribunal should have considered the stress that the Claimant suffered as a result of having to find a parking space.

Comment

When considering reasonable adjustments, employers should consider the particular disadvantage of the individual. The case also highlights that an employer’s failure to follow its own policies on reasonable adjustments is likely to result in a breach of duty.

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