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Significant judgments at Employment Appeal Tribunal disability case

Leading law firm, RadcliffesLeBrasseur, advised an applicant in a claim to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) as to whether reasonable adjustments were made by the Employment Tribunal to accommodate his disability. The decision is significant and re-affirms employment tribunals’ obligations – and other bodies – to ensure that they make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled claimants have the same access to justice as non-disabled claimants.

Significant points arising from the decision:

  • Every disabled person’s case is different and what is a reasonable adjustment must be tailored to the needs of that individual
  • Ground rules hearings’ as described in the Equal Treatment Bench Book, are likely to be helpful for setting down a baseline from which decisions may be considered
  • It is important to take steps quickly.

Does the duty to make reasonable adjustments apply to Claimants in the Employment Tribunal?

Yes, confirmed the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Rackham v NHS Professionals Ltd.

The facts:

Mr Rackham has Asperger’s syndrome. He brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal against NHS Professionals Ltd. The Employment Tribunal ordered Mr Rackham to obtain a medical report to determine firstly whether he was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 and secondly, what reasonable adjustments were required to allow Mr Rackham to participate in the Employment Tribunal hearing. In the absence of a medical report the parties agreed the adjustments necessary for the hearing. Mr Rackham requested an adjournment of the hearing to enable him to obtain a medical report. The Employment Tribunal refused on the basis that adjustments had been agreed between the parties. Mr Rackham appealed to the EAT.

The outcome:

The EAT confirmed that employment tribunals have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate claimants’ disabilities. The purpose of such adjustments was to overcome the ‘social, attitudinal or environmental difficulties’ claimants who are disabled may face in bringing a claim in the employment tribunal.

The EAT affirmed that practical guidance for employment tribunals is set out in the Equal Treatment Bench Book. Notwithstanding this, the EAT held that the employment tribunal in this particular case had complied with the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Extracts from the judgment:

“The essential case for the Claimant was put by Mr John Horan, who, together with Mr Nathan Roberts of counsel, appears under the auspices of the Bar pro bono scheme, supported also without remuneration by RadcliffesLeBrasseur as solicitors. We could not begin this Judgment without acknowledging the debt that we have to him and to them.”

“…very great gratitude to both teams of lawyers. The way in which matters developed contributively before the Tribunal is a good example of the way in which parties should co-operate with each other and with the court in order to do their best to ensure a fair hearing.”

For more information on this case or disability discrimination in the workplace, please contact:

Sejal Raja
Partner

T. 020 7227 7410
E. sejal.raja@rlb-law.com