Home Office

Hello and welcome back to the weekly case update. Last week we looked at whether an express term in a contract of employment can be subject to a ‘limiting’ implied term from the home office.

This week we will be looking at what reasonable adjustments an employer has to make for an employee under section 20 of the Equality Act.

Home Office, Project Management V Latif

Ms Kuranchie acting Assistant Director at the Home Office suffered from dyslexia and dyspraxia and as a result of this disability, she requested flexible working arrangements.She had to work longer hours than her colleagues to get the same amount of work done.

The Respondent provided her with specialist equipment and an approved compressed hour working agreement. However, neither of these adjustments alleviated her problem, particularly as the Respondent continued to give her the same volume of work as her colleagues.

Ms Kuranchie brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal on the basis that the respondent had failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability because:

  • She had to carry out the same volume of work as her non-disabled colleagues
  • Due to her disability, she could not complete the same work within normal working hours
  • This put her at a substantial disadvantage
  • The Home Office had a duty to make reasonable adjustments to alleviate that disadvantage.

The Claimant succeeded at Tribunal. The Respondent appealed.

The question was:

Had the Home Office discharged that duty by only making the adjustments that Ms Kuranchie had suggested?

The EAT said no. They said it was necessary to take a holistic approach to reasonable adjustments. The employment tribunal identified that a reduced workload would have cured Ms Kuranchie’s disadvantage i.e. if she was given less work she wouldn’t have to stay late.

Tribunal Hearing

The point of interest is that this was not an adjustment that the Claimant had suggested to her employer at any time prior to the tribunal hearing.Despite this, it was held that the Home Office’s failure to consider and implement a reduced workload, an adjustment that was reasonable that would have had a real prospect of removing the disadvantage, was a breach of their duty to make reasonable adjustments.

In reaching this decision the EAT took a similar approach as in Project Management v Latif – in a section 20 claim, an employment tribunal isn’t limited to considering reasonable adjustments that have been raised by the Claimant.  It is perfectly valid to consider any “new” adjustments raised – even by the tribunal itself.

Take away point:

An employer must take a proactive approach to the question of reasonable adjustments and must consider carefully whether an adjustment made has the ‘actual’ effect of removing the disadvantage. The duty is a positive one and proactivity is required.