The duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to service providers
The Supreme Court unanimously held in the case of First Group PLC v Paulley  UKSC 4, that a bus operator’s policy relating to the wheelchair space on its buses was in breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, attempted to board a bus operated by FG PLC on 24 February 2012. The bus had a space marked with a wheelchair sign and a notice. The space was occupied by a woman and a sleeping child in a pushchair. The driver asked the woman to move to allow Mr Paulley to board, but the woman refused. As a result Mr Paulley was unable to board the bus and subsequently arrived an hour late to his destination.
Mr Paulley subsequently brought a claim against FG PLC for disability discrimination in the Leeds County Court. The County Court found that it was not sufficient for a public service provider to operate a policy of requesting, but not requiring, non-wheelchair users to vacate the wheelchair space. It was a reasonable adjustment to have a notice requiring non-wheelchair users to move if a wheelchair user needed the dedicated space and adopt an enforcement policy. Mr Paulley succeeded in his argument and was awarded £5,500 in damages.
The County Court’s decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which did not find the adjustments reasonable. However, the Supreme Court found that FG PLC had breached the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
The majority were of the opinion that it was a reasonable adjustment to require further steps to be taken by the driver if the request for the non-wheelchair user to move was unreasonably refused.
This case serves as a useful reminder that the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons not only applies in the employment context but also service providers.
If you are a service provider and would like further advice on the duty to make reasonable adjustments please contact:
Partner and Head of Employment
T. 020 7227 7410
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.