New place of work can be a reasonable adjustment for disabled employee
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February 1, 2010
An employer successfully defended a disability discrimination claim that it
had failed to make reasonable adjustments at an employee’s initial place of work
after moving the employee to another location and making reasonable adjustments
at the new location.
In Garrett v Lidl, a shop manager for a supermarket chain had fibromyalgia
which was accepted as a disability by her employers. Her employers expected shop
managers to perform shelf-stacking, move pallets and work on the checkouts and
in the freezer store as well as their management duties. Due to her disability
the employee’s task were adjusted to give her more breaks and more variety in
her duties to accommodate her disability and a referral to Occupational Health
was made. Following that referral, her employees decided to move her to another
store, which would allow her greater flexibility in managing her duties.
The employee raised a grievance, which was eventually taken to employment
tribunal, as she did not want to move and argued her employer should make
reasonable adjustments at her existing store rather than the new one and failure
to do so was a failure to make reasonable adjustments. The employer had a
mobility clause in its employment contract and had considered her travel
distance to work and the closeness of the new store to her child’s school and
her GP’s surgery. The Employment Tribunal found that the employer had not failed
to make reasonable adjustments.
The employee appealed and the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the
Employment Tribunal decision. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that a move
to another place of work was a reasonable adjustment under the Disability
Discrimination Act (Section 18B(2)(e)). Although the Employment Appeal Tribunal
agreed with the employee in that employers were obliged to see if reasonable
adjustments could be made at the existing place of work, however, if reasonable
adjustments could best be made at another place of work and the employment
contract had a mobility clause, then it is reasonable for employers to change
the employee’s place of work.
This decision does not give employers permission to simply move employees to
alternative places of work because it’s easier to make reasonable adjustments at
the new place of work. The employer had a mobility clause which had been used
and had considered factors such as distance to travel to work, so was able to
demonstrate that all factors had been considered and a new place of work was the
best way of making reasonable adjustments for the disabled employee to continue
Employers though still need to take care when moving employees from one place
of work to another as claims of indirect discrimination can arise where some
employees being moved have childcare responsibilities and the new place of work
involves a longer journey or significant adjustments to childcare arrangements.
About the Author
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-02-09 13:34:57 in Legal Articles