28 August 2014

In London Borough of Southwark v Charles, the EAT recently upheld a Tribunal decision that an employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee in a redundancy exercise.  

Mr Charles was employed as an Environmental Enforcement Officer.  He was informed that his position was being made redundant, and was invited to interview for alternative roles.  However, Mr Charles suffered from a disability which meant that he could not attend administrative meetings. Because of this, Mr Charles didn't attend his redeployment interview and was subsequently made redundant.  The EAT confirmed that the Borough had failed to make reasonable adjustments and should have considered alternative ways of assessing Mr Charles's suitability for an alternative role, aside from an interview (which was akin to an administrative meeting). The Court also noted that if this adjustment had been made, it did not follow automatically that Mr Charles would have been successful in his redeployment application.

Employers should remember that the duty to make reasonable adjustments applies throughout a redundancy exercise. Whilst most employers appreciate that reasonable adjustments need to be made for disability-related absence where absence is a selection criterion, the duty doesn't stop there. In this instance, the employer could have offered to interview the employee at home, could have conducted a less formal application process or, given the length of the employee’s service, could have relied on the assessment of a previous line manager.  

The duty also applies even if the end result would have been no different - in another recent case, Dominique v Toll Global Forwarding Ltd the EAT held that the employer should have made reasonable adjustments to its scoring criteria to take account of an employee's disability even though, even if they had done this, the employee would still have been made redundant.

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