News and Events

Disability discrimination: Reasonable adjustments

  • Posted

Did an employer make reasonable adjustments when it dismissed a disabled employee rather than placing him in an alternative role on a trial basis?

No, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Miller v Rentokil.

The Claimant worked as a field-based pest controller. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis he could no longer work in this role. He couldn’t work at heights (which made up around 40% of his role) and could only work slowly. 

The Respondent looked at other jobs in the business and the Claimant applied for an administrator role. He was unsuccessful following an interview process and was dismissed. The Claimant claimed that failing to place him in the administrator role on a trial basis amounted to a failure to make reasonable adjustments under Equality Act 2010. The tribunal upheld his claim.

On appeal, the EAT agreed with the tribunal. The Claimant was placed at a substantial disadvantage because of his disability - he could no longer carry out his duties in his field-based role. Moving the Claimant to an alternative role was potentially a reasonable adjustment which would remove that disadvantage. The Claimant had shown that the alternative role was potentially appropriate and suitable. The burden then passed to the Respondent to show that it was not reasonable to have put the employee into that role, or to have done so at least on a trial basis. 

The tribunal had been entitled to conclude that the Respondent had not discharged this burden. Whilst they should and did take the Respondent’s assessment into account they did not have to agree with it. They had permissibly reached their own objective position taking account of the suitability of the role, whether the employee met its essential requirements and the likelihood of a successful trial.