Reasonable adjustments for disabilities

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It is of course well established that employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace for disabled employees. What about those employees who are associated with someone with a disability?

The case of Coleman v Attridge established that claims for associative discrimination can apply to direct discrimination. Since that case of course the Equality Act 2010 has come into force which expressly provides for associative discrimination in s13 of that Act.

The Court of Appeal in the recent case of Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence has ruled that an employer is not under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for an employee who does not themselves have a disability but is associated with someone that does. Under the Equality Act the wording is such that the obligation on employers only applies where the employee or applicant for a role is disabled. In this case, Mrs Hainsworth was not disabled herself but her daughter had Down’s Syndrome which fell within the meaning of a disability under the Equality Act 2010. She wanted a transfer back to the UK so that her daughter could access specialist educational facilities. Her request was refused and she brought a claim that her employer had failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments which was unsuccessful. The Court of Appeal said that any attempt to stretch the meaning of the Act or the Directive behind it was “doomed to failure”.

Written by
Robin Aston
24th July 2014