The Court of Appeal Upholds Decision On Reasonable Adjustments

MOD Worker Fails To Overturn EAT’s Original Judgment

13.06.2014

David Shirt, Press Officer | 0161 838 3094

The Court of Appeal has upheld a EAT’s decision last year in relation to whether an employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments extend to a member of staff who is associated with a disabled person.

In the Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence case, the appellant is a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defence who is based in Germany. Although she is not disabled, her daughter has Down's syndrome ( therefore disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act) and requested a compassionate transfer to the UK to enable her daughter to access specialist education and training facilities which were not available in Germany.

Following the request being refused by the employer, the claimant took the claim to the EAT alleging the refusal amounted to a breach of the obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

Although the concept of associative discrimination applies to direct discrimination, the EAT had previously held that an employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments is only triggered where the employee is, themself, disabled. Following a hearing earlier this year, this has been upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Expert Opinion
The Court of Appeal has made it quite clear that the Equality Act 2010 requirement to make reasonable adjustments is just for the benefit of disabled employees and job applicants. The requirement to make reasonable adjustments is not extended to those associated with a disabled person.

“However employers should be aware that with effect from the 30 June 2014, an employee can make a flexible working request if for example they are struggling to cope due to family reasons. In addition some employers in any event will do what they can to assist an employee with a disabled family member, not only from a moral perspective but also as a matter of good practice and to make the employee feel valued.

“It is also worth noting that if a female employee has a disabled child, there could be a possibility of indirect discrimination, as it is accepted that females have greater child caring responsibilities.”
Glenn Hayes, Partner