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Employment Law Up-date - Discrimination arising from Disability

View profile for Thomas Browne
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Background

A family bakery business in North Wales, employing nearly 1000 employees over its 4 sites has recently been found to have discriminated against an employee under Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.

This section specifically relates to discrimination arising from disability and can be established if a person is treated unfavourably because of an issue arising from the employee’s disability. Further, it will arise if the employer cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of obtaining a legitimate aim. That treatment must be disproportionate, unless it can be proved that the employer was unaware of the disability in question.

The Facts

Mr Stanley had been registered as blind since 2010 and secured a job as a night-shift operator at the Village Bakery (Wrexham) Limited based at its Coedpoeth branch in July 2023. This followed him successfully undertaking a physical induction and assessment over several hours. The Bakery were satisfied that he was medically fit to undertake his duties including collecting and separating bread, placing it on trays and associated tasks.

The employment was conditional on him passing a 3 months probationary period. Mr Stanley was dismissed, six weeks into his probationary period, despite the fact he felt he was doing a good job and tellingly without being told of any significant issues arising as to his performance. This was especially odd, as he was assigned a work ‘buddy’ for a period – who had not flagged up any concerns directly to him. To compound matters evidence was given that it was patently obvious to his line-manager and colleagues, that Mr Stanley’s sight disability caused him to make mistakes from the outset of his employment.

The Tribunal

The subsequent Employment Tribunal were satisfied that the Bakery had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Mr Stanley’s known disability. For example, the probationary period could have been for longer, to enable him to adjust to his new role and his physical working environment. In addition, it was felt the employer should have provided Mr Stanley with a support worker and advising his colleagues of his impairment, so that they too could make adjustments in how they inter-acted with him. The onus was on the employers to make these adjustments, as they were aware of the extent of his disability. Accordingly, Mr Stanley’s dismissal, was found to be a disproportionate response and could have been avoided if adjustments were made. His dismissal did amount to discrimination on the grounds of his disability.

A subsequent Remedy Hearing will make a ruling on Mr Stanley’s claims for sums exceeding £110,000.00.

Lessons

As ever transparency and good communication between employer and employee are vital, especially in dealing with disabled staff. They have a legal responsibility to make adjustments for disabled staff throughout their period of employment. Discussions between the parties to consider appropriate levels of support and reasonable adjustments could have avoided this claim and many others like it. Indeed any work applicant is obligated to inform an employer of their circumstances and feasible ways in which support could be given.

Each person’s work adjustments would have to be customised to their particular circumstances, including appropriate levels of training and support. A failure to do so increases the risks to employers of such Claim.

Get in touch with our Employment Law team

If you  are an employer or an employee having any work-place related issues or disputes our experienced Employment Law team is on hand to support you through any difficulties you are facing.  To discuss how we can help, please contact your local Kingsfords office in Ashford, Cranbrook or Hythe. Alternatively, you can send an enquiry and a member of our team will get back to you promptly, by calling us on 01233 665544 or emailing via dbc@kingsfords.net. If you want to see how much resolving the employment issue might cost? We can provide an estimate with no obligations.

Employment Law Up-date - Discrimination arising from Disability

View profile for Thomas Browne
  • Posted
  • Author