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Ensuring Workplace Adjustments: Lessons from Recent Disability Discrimination Case 

In a recent legal case examined by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), the spotlight was cast on the crucial issue of workplace adjustments for disabled employees. The case revolved around a disabled employee diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, whose inability to continue his field-based pest controller role due to his disability led him to seek an alternative administrator position within the company. Despite his efforts, the employee was unsuccessful in securing the new role and subsequently faced dismissal. 

The claimant contended that the company’s failure to transition him to the administrator role constituted a breach of the Equality Act 2010, as they neglected to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disability. On appeal, the EAT sided with the employee, emphasising the significant disadvantage posed by his disability, which hindered his performance in his original role. The tribunal underscored the potential of moving him to an alternative position as a reasonable adjustment, thereby mitigating the disadvantage. 

However, the burden shifted to the company to justify why placing the employee in the alternative role, even on a trial basis, was not reasonable. The tribunal ultimately found the company’s reasoning lacking, highlighting their failure to adequately assess the suitability of the alternative role and the likelihood of a successful trial period. Consequently, the tribunal upheld the employees claim, affirming the importance of diligently considering reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. 

Click to read the full Miller vs Rentokil case. 

This case serves as a poignant reminder of the legal obligations and ethical responsibilities companies bear towards their disabled employees. To ensure compliance with disability discrimination laws and foster an inclusive workplace environment, companies can implement several proactive measures including: 

  • Clear Policies and Training: Develop and communicate clear policies outlining the company’s commitment to providing reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. Regular training sessions for managers, supervisors, and HR personnel on disability discrimination laws and accommodation procedures are essential. 
  • Interactive Process: Engage in an interactive process with disabled employees to identify their specific needs and determine reasonable accommodations. Open communication and collaboration are key to finding effective solutions. 
  • Reasonable Accommodations: Make necessary adjustments to eliminate barriers and provide equal employment opportunities for disabled employees. This may involve modifying job duties, providing assistive technology, adjusting work schedules, or making physical modifications to the workplace. 
  • Alternative Job Assignments: Explore alternative job assignments or roles within the company for disabled employees unable to perform their current duties due to their disability. Consider the employee’s skills, qualifications, and limitations when identifying suitable positions. 
  • Documentation and Reviews: Maintain accurate records of accommodation requests, discussions, and outcomes. Conduct periodic reviews to assess the effectiveness of accommodation and adjust as needed. 
  • Non-Retaliation: Ensure that employees feel comfortable coming forward with accommodation requests without fear of retaliation. Retaliation against employees exercising their rights under disability discrimination laws is strictly prohibited. 

By proactively implementing these measures, companies can not only fulfill their legal obligations but also create an inclusive and supportive workplace culture where all employees can thrive, regardless of their abilities. 

Swan Craig Solicitors are a locally trusted and thoroughly regulated law firm, housing qualified solicitors and experienced legal professionals well-versed in UK employment law. With the knowledge, training and expertise to advise you on issues with your employer or working environment, we are authorised and insured to give you legal guidance. With over 18 years of experience, our dedicated team are available at your convenience, so simply contact us today, on everything from disciplinaries to changes in contract. 

Our blogs and articles are prepared for general interest, and it is important to obtain professional advice on specific issues. Swan Craig believes the information contained in these blogs and articles to be correct at the time of publication. While all possible care is taken in the preparation of these blogs and articles, no responsibility or liability for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of the material contained herein can be accepted by Swan Craig, the author, or the publisher. 

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