Disability Discrimination Reasonable Adjustments

In the following case, the EAT ruled that an employment tribunal had adopted the wrong approach to the question of whether a disabled employee should have been provided with a dedicated parking space as a reasonable adjustment.

Legal Principles

The Equality Act 2010 imposes a requirement on an employer whose workplace practices put a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage to make reasonable changes to those practices to remove the disadvantage.

Facts

The Claimant suffered from a medical condition which could manifest itself in an urgent need for the toilet and was made worse by stress.

Her employer had a car park policy that give priority to staff who required a parking space as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. An occupational health report recommended that the Claimant should be provided with a dedicated parking space. However, instead of granting the Claimant a dedicated parking space, the employer said that she could temporarily park in one of the essential user parking bays or in a no parking zone provided she returned to her vehicle to move it after she had visited the toilet.

However, this concession did not guarantee the Claimant a parking space and she was not satisfied with the arrangement.

Claim

She subsequently brought a claim for disability discrimination against the employer for, among other things, failing to make a reasonable adjustment by providing her with a dedicated parking space.

Employment tribunal (ET) decision

The ET dismissed her claim. Although the employer had failed to comply with its own car parking policy by providing the Claimant with a dedicated parking space, the tribunal was not satisfied that a dedicated parking space was the only possible reasonable adjustment or that it was necessarily the best solution and ruled that the alternative arrangements made by the employer constituted reasonable adjustments.

The Claimant appealed.

Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision

The EAT upheld the Claimant’s appeal against the tribunal’s decision.

Although it is not necessarily incorrect for a tribunal to say that the adjustment requested was not the only possible reasonable adjustment or that it was necessarily the best solution, whether it is reasonable depends on the disadvantage in question. In this case, the disadvantage to the Claimant was the stress caused by having to search for a parking place. The adjustments made by the employer did not address that disadvantage but addressed a different one of ensuring that the Claimant could park near to the building when she had urgent need for the toilet. Had the disadvantage in question been the need to be near a toilet, then the adjustments considered by the tribunal might well have been reasonable. However, the adjustment offered by the employer was not reasonable to avoid the disadvantage of stress resulting from the search for a parking space.

Linsley v Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs

Comment

The tribunal had applied the wrong test in determining whether the adjustment was reasonable. There is no requirement on a claimant to show that the adjustment sought was the only possible reasonable adjustment or that it was necessarily the best solution. In any case, on the facts of this case, a dedicated parking space was the only adjustment that would eliminate the disadvantage in question, namely the stress resulting from the search for available parking.

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