Disability: When is an adjustment reasonable?

Deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable, to determine whether it is required by disability discrimination legislation, is a quandary that affects many employers.

 

Employers are required to consider reasonable adjustments where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage because of their disability when compared to a person not suffering from a disability. 

 

Previously, employers would argue that there was no obligation to make an adjustment where it could be shown that such an adjustment would not or was unlikely to remove the disadvantage.

 

In the recent case of LeedsTeaching Hospital NHS Trust v Foster, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decided that, in order for an adjustment to amount to a reasonable adjustment, there does not need to be a good or real prospect that the adjustment would alleviate the disadvantage suffered.

 

In this case, it was considered that placing an employee suffering from stress and depression on a redeployment register would have been a reasonable adjustment, despite the fact that there was not a good prospect of a redeployment opportunity becoming available and, even if such an opportunity arose, it was unclear whether the employee would have been well enough to work.

 

This case has extended the obligation on employers with regard to reasonable adjustments.  Employers need to reassess their efforts to make adjustments for disabled employees to ensure that they are not ruling out adjustments because it is thought that such an adjustment may not alleviate the disadvantage.