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Not calling job applicant with dyspraxia was a failure to make reasonable adjustments

Not calling job applicant with dyspraxia was a failure to make reasonable adjustments
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), in the case of AECOM Limited v Mallon, had to consider whether the respondent had made reasonable adjustments in the application process for a job applicant with dyspraxia.

The claimant wanted to apply for a position with the respondent which required him to create an online account. The claimant’s medical condition dyspraxia, however, made this difficult. The claimant, therefore, emailed the respondent’s HR department indicating that he was interested in applying for the role. In their attached CV they disclosed their dyspraxia and explained how this can generally affect people and asked if “because of my disability” could they do “an oral application” as “a 5 to 10 min phone call to talk about my experience”. They requested this be arranged by email, to which they would respond with their telephone number.

In their reply, the respondent’s HR department asked the claimant what part of the online form they were struggling with, as help could be provided to complete this. This offer of help was in fact repeated several times across various emails. However, the claimant did not answer this question, nor did they inform the respondent that they could not create a username and password to create the account.

The claimant brought a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments because of the respondent’s refusal to allow them to submit their job application orally. The respondent argued that the duty to make reasonable adjustments had not arisen because the claimant had not explained, despite being asked by email on a number of occasions, what the specific difficulties were with completing the online application.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that the respondent knew that because of his dyspraxia he had difficulty in filling in online application forms and that ought to have been enough for the respondent to take more action than it did. The ET, therefore, upheld the claim of failure to make reasonable adjustments.

This decision was appealed to the EAT who found that the ET were entitled to conclude that an employer acting reasonably would have telephoned the claimant to understand more about the situation and that the emails they sent were not enough. The fact that the respondent did not know exactly what the difficulty was with completing the online form did not mean that the duty to make reasonable adjustments did not arise, as there was sufficient information available for the respondent to realise that this was a disability related issue. The appeal was therefore rejected.

Arguably it can be difficult for employers to know what is enough to discharge their obligation to make reasonable adjustments in some circumstances. But this case is an important reminder that appropriate communication is vital. Also, that the obligation to make reasonable adjustments starts way before an individual is even an employee.

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