Following our article from last week on employers’ obligation to make reasonable adjustments during hiring, here we examine what reasonable adjustments can occur at any point during employment. Adjustments for a disability need not cost the world or require employers to make significant changes to their work environment or to policies and procedures. We summarize 10 examples of simple, sensible adjustments that have emerged in case law.
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Disability discrimination laws actively require employers to make appropriate adjustments to meet the needs of disabled workers. This obligation arises at any time before, during or after the employment relationship if the employer significantly disadvantages a disabled person compared to non-disabled persons.
1. Redistribution of a duty that a disabled employee cannot fulfill
An NHS trust discriminated against a deaf candidate for a position when he was not considering reallocation of telephone work, according to the Keane Labor Court v United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust.
2. Providing a nearby parking space for a disabled worker
In Environment Agency v Donnelly, EAT found that an employer’s refusal to allocate a parking space near a disabled worker’s place of work was in breach of his duty to make reasonable adjustments. The employer’s suggestion that the employee should come to work earlier to ensure a convenient parking space mistakenly transferred responsibility for the necessary adjustments to the disabled person.
3. Provision of a device
West v. Lewis t / a Squires Model & Craft Tools is a good example of an employer committing disability discrimination by failing to make a simple and inexpensive adjustment for a disabled employee. A saleswoman who had undergone hip replacement surgery had repeatedly asked that the company provide her with a stool behind the counter so that she could sit from time to time to relieve her pain.
4. Swap two devices
In the George v H and M Bottomley Ltd case, the Labor Court found that the employer had not adequately adjusted the provision of a power steering van that was available to allow a rheumatoid arthritis sales rep to continue.
5. Transferring a disabled person to a role that is not accessible to the public
In Brooks v. Secretary of State for Labor and Pensions, the Labor Court concluded that a worker with depression who was unable to cope with significant direct relationships with the public should be offered a position in a non-public role that is available was.
6. Plan regular breaks to deal with a disability
In Woodhead v Halifax plc, it was found that a diabetic who did not take regular breaks because of her condition was unlawfully discriminated against because of her disability.
7. Providing a mentor for a disabled employee
In Bowerman v. B & Q plc and others, an employee with Asperger’s Syndrome repeatedly requested a mentor as part of the employer’s mentoring program. This would have helped the employee understand how their behavior might affect others and provided a channel through which other employees could raise concerns about their behavior towards them.
8. Change the employer’s policy on escorts at certain meetings
For a disabled employee, the duty to make appropriate adjustments may include allowing additional or alternative representation at performance review meetings or disciplinary negotiations by someone outside the prescribed categories, such as a carer or family member experienced in dealing with the employee’s disability. The Court of Appeal examined this issue in the Cave / Goodwin case.
9. Change roles with another employee
In the Jelic v. Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police, the EAT upheld a Labor Court ruling that replacing the role of one handicapped officer with that of another officer was a reasonable adjustment of circumstances.
10. Hold an employee in an alternate position temporarily
In the Horler v. Chief Constable of the South Wales Police Department, the Labor Court concluded that the most obvious reasonable adjustment would have been to keep an injured police officer in the camera room operator role to which he had been transferred, at least until that post was vacated was existence. At that point, the police would have been able to check the officer’s work. Because the police had not considered these steps, they had not made appropriate adjustments.