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New place of work can be a reasonable adjustment for disabled employee

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Lawson-West Solicitors - Expert Author

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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 working.

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

Lawson-West specialise in commercial, business and employment law. Our team of dedicated commercial solicitors can help with buying or selling a business, business law and disputes, landlord and tenant issues and commercial property. Our expert employment team can offer practical advice and guidance on all aspects of employment law including redundancy, compromise agreements and dismissal procedures. Visit www.lawson-west.co.uk for more information.



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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-02-09 13:34:57 in Legal Articles

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