EAT confirms employers “broad” duty to make reasonable adjustments

Employers can view the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 as onerous due to their lack of medical or practical experience as to what adjustments can be made to remove disadvantages faced by the employee at work. The Employment Appeal Tribunal have considered how far employers are expected to go when considering reasonable adjustments in The Home Office (UK Visas & Immigration) v Kuranchie. The employee has dyspraxia and dyslexia and was classed as disabled under the Equality Act. Her disability negatively affected her compared to her colleagues because it took her longer to complete her workload so she worked longer days to finish her work. The employee started her employment in April 2006 and at the start of 2013 she spoke to her line manager about her disability and the effect of a lack of adjustments was causing her. Her manager arranged for her to be provided with specialist equipment and a static desk as an adjustment. In April 2013, the employee contacted her manager with a flexible working request to amend her five-day working week to work the same amount of hours over a 4 day period; longer days allowed her to be more productive and complete more work. In the email, the employee stated that she believed this was the only adjustment required. The request was approved but the claimant went on to make a claim of a failure to make reasonable adjustments at tribunal. At tribunal, it was decided that the employer had applied a provision or practice of giving the employee the same volume of work as her colleagues which placed her at a substantial disadvantage of having to work longer hours because she took longer to complete work. The employment tribunal judged that the reasonable adjustment the employer should have taken was to reduce her workload to avoid this disadvantage; as they did not do this they were in breach of their duty. The employer appealed this decision on the grounds that neither the medical evidence produced by the claimant, or the claimant herself, requested a reduced workload as an adjustment. The Employment Appeal Tribunal clarified that the issue to be addressed is whether the employer took such steps as are reasonable to avoid the disadvantage. In this case, although the employer had taken some steps by allowing compressed hours and providing assistive software, these steps did not remove the disadvantage so they failed their duty. What this means for employers: • This decision confirms how broad the obligation is on employers to make reasonable adjustments; it is not for the employer to rely solely on suggestions made by the employee themselves. • The duty requires the employer to consider what steps can be taken to remove the disadvantage and then decide whether these are reasonable to make. • Discussing reasonable adjustments with the employee concerned and receiving medical evidence on the particular disability can help the employer to make the decision. This case shows, however, that employers should not solely rely on this but should carry out their own consideration into what reasonable adjustments can be made.

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