Are company policies relevant when determining which adjustments are reasonable?

1st May 2019

Are company policies relevant when determining which adjustments are reasonable?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) judgment in Linsley v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Custom (HMRC) highlights the factors employers should consider when discharging their duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.

In this case, Mrs Linsley suffered with ulcerative colitis, a disability under the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. During her time working for HMRC, a number of occupational health reports were prepared for Mrs Linsley. Each report stated that she would benefit from a dedicated parking space at the site where she worked due to her disability.

Mrs Linsley brought a number of claims against her employer in 2017, including the failure to make reasonable adjustments when she was not given a dedicated parking space when she moved to a new HMRC site. HMRC made alternative arrangements for Mrs Linsley but she felt that the arrangements were not sufficient.

The EAT found that it was the stress of having to find a parking space which caused Mrs Linsley’s disadvantage as stress triggered her condition. Therefore the other arrangements made did not alleviate the disadvantage suffered nor discharge the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Further, the EAT considered the car parking policy which HMRC had in place which stated that employees with disabilities would be prioritised for dedicated parking spaces. The EAT stated a non-contractual, discretionary policy will still be relevant when assessing whether an adjustment is reasonable. So if a policy is departed from, as it was in this case, there needs to be a good reason and not simply that the relevant individuals acted in ignorance of the policy.

The fact that a number of adjustments had been made and that the claimant has been treated with sympathy and consideration, as the EAT found in this case, does not detract from the need to give reasons for why a certain adjustment is not to be made.

Employer Considerations

The judgment from the EAT highlights the factors to be considered by employers when assessing what adjustments are reasonable. Employers are advised to remember the importance of obtaining occupational health reports to assist in understanding their employee’s disabilities and, in particular, to consider whether any recommendations should be put in place.

Any company policy in place will be considered when determining if an adjustment is reasonable. It is therefore recommended that all employees, particularly those in management, are familiar with all relevant company policies. Regular training on such issues may also be considered necessary.


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