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Reasonable Adjustments for Disabled Employees

What could be viewed as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee is a question that has been debated for some time.  Some adjustments appear straightforward whilst others are viewed as going beyond what would be considered reasonable.  A recent case in the news puts pay protection on the list as a reasonable adjustment.  Here we take a look at the case in point and offer some tips on some other adjustments that have been considered reasonable.

In the case of G4S Cash Solutions (UK) Ltd v Powell the employee in question was an engineer.  Following a back injury, he was deemed disabled and unable to perform the full duties of his role.  As a reasonable adjustment, the employer redeployed the employee to the less skilled role of ‘key runner’.  As a further adjustment, it agreed to protect the employee’s pay rather than impose the 10% reduction in salary the lesser role attracted.

The following year, the employer informed the employee that the pay protection would not continue and sought to impose the reduced rate of pay.  When the employee refused to accept the pay cut, he was dismissed and brought claims within the Employment Tribunal.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal determined there was no reason why the duty to make reasonable adjustments could not extend to pay protection, alongside other adjustments, to counter the disadvantage suffered by a disabled employee. 

As with almost all Employment Tribunal claims, this case turned on its facts and the Judgment here does not necessarily impose a blanket requirement of pay protection as a reasonable adjustment.  It is unlikely such an adjustment would be an “everyday event” but consideration should be given to such an adjustment.  

This case serves as a timely reminder that employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage.  Here are a few examples of adjustments that may be reasonable dependent, of course, on the specific circumstances.

1. The implementation of a phased return to work, once the employee felt able to return, following a period of long-term sickness absence.  Adjustments may include reducing the number of hours or days worked (or both) or allowing the employee to undertake light duties.

2. Allowing flexibility in terms of working hours and breaks.  For example, facilitating additional breaks or breaks at a set time of the day.

3. Where car parking spaces are allocated on a first come, first served basis, amending that policy to allocate a disabled employee a dedicated parking space.

4. The provision of auxiliary aids, such as an adapted keyboard, a large computer screen, text to speech software, screen readers and telephone handset amplifiers.

5. Redeployment to another position within the business where the employee is no longer able to continue to perform their existing duties.

6. Modifying performance related pay schemes or bonus schemes where a disabled worker’s ability to earn is limited compared with non-disabled workers as a result of other reasonable adjustments such as reduced working hours, additional breaks or sickness absence.

7. Giving additional training or mentoring to disabled workers or providing other support.

8. Modifying a disciplinary or grievance procedure to allow a disabled employee to bring a friend as her companion to a meeting (which is not usually permitted), so they can act as an advocate.

Reasonable adjustments can arise in a number of different forms and it is important that employers communicate with their employees to seek input on what adjustments they feel would assist them in performing their role.  Advice can be sought from the employee’s doctor, with their consent, if necessary.

At SCE Solicitors we have advised many employers on handling reasonable adjustments within the workplace.  If you are facing such an issue or have an employee on long-term sickness absence and need advice on how to handle this, please contact me on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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