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Are disciplinary sanctions under sickness absense policies subject to the duty to make reasonable adjustments?

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Yes, according to the Court of Appeal in the case of Griffiths v The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] EWCA Civ 1265 . An absence management policy could place a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage and therefore, the duty to make reasonable adjustments is engaged. The Court noted that this duty goes beyond equal treatment and requires employers to take positive steps.

However, the Court went on to state that in this case, the employer did not fail to make reasonable adjustments by not extending the point at which disciplinary action could be taken under its attendance management policy and by failing to disregard periods of sickness absence.

This case has resolved the previous confusion surrounding reasonable adjustments and absence management policies by holding that the triggers for disciplinary sanctions under such policies are subject to the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Employers should be aware of this duty when managing absent employees who suffer from a health condition that could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Written by
Rachael Jessop
22nd December 2015