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9th March 2017

Tribunal Tale – Reasonable adjustments

Employers’ duty to make reasonable adjustments not limited to only those requested

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld a finding that the Home Office (HO) discriminated against an employee for failing to make reasonable adjustments in relation to her workload.

One of the main rules regarding employees who are disabled is that an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid or reduce any disadvantage caused by the disability. That disadvantage can be caused by a practice or rule put in place by the employer, by a particular physical feature of the premises or by the lack of an auxiliary aid such as an adapted keyboard.

In Home Office v Kuranchie, the employee in question suffered from dyslexia and dyspraxia, which caused her to have to work longer hours to complete her work. The HO implemented a number of adjustments for Ms Kuranchie, including specialist equipment. The HO also agreed to allow Ms Kuranchie to compress her working hours from five days into four longer ones.

Ms Kuranchie stated at the time that this was the only adjustment required and the HO did not reduce her workload following the change of pattern.

Ms Kuranchie later brought a claim against the HO for failing to make reasonable adjustments. The initial Employment Tribunal (ET) found that the HO had a practice in place that required Ms Kuranchie to complete the same amount of work as her colleagues. It also found that this put her at a disadvantage, as her disability meant that she had to work longer hours.

The ET decided that the HO should have reduced Ms Kuranchie’s workload as a reasonable adjustment and that its failure to do so meant that it has discriminated against her. The HO appealed.

The EAT agreed with the earlier decision, finding that allowing Ms Kuranchie to compress her working pattern into four days did not alleviate the disadvantage caused by her conditions. It found that a reduced workload would have been helpful to Ms Kuranchie and by not implementing such a reduction there had been disability discrimination.

Of particular interest in this case is that Ms Kuranchie did not at any point prior to raising her claim ask the HO to reduce her workload. Nevertheless, the HO was held to have acted unlawfully by not implementing a reduction of its own volition.

This case is a useful reminder of employers’ obligations in relation to disabled employees. If such an employee is disadvantaged due to a particular practice, physical feature or lack of something that could provide aid, the employer is under a duty to take reasonable steps to remove or at least reduce the disadvantage.

Employers should not wait for an employee to suggest adjustments or implement only those suggested by the employee, but should consider the issue for itself and take any steps that might help.

If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article please contact Seanpaul McCahill.

9th March 2017