Making reasonable adjustments to cater for the needs of disabled employees can be demanding, but it is a legal requirement. In a recent case, the Employment Tribunal (ET) found that a marketing company treated a wheelchair-dependent salesman as a problem that was best kept out of sight and out of mind (Moan v Optimal Strategix Group Ltd).

The man had an impressive background in sales and was recruited by the company a few months after he suffered an accident which left him paraplegic. The company found difficulties in meeting his needs almost immediately and he was asked to work from home. He was taken on to manage a sales team, this responsibility was removed and he was eventually dismissed on the basis that he had failed to meet the requirements of a performance improvement plan (PIP).

After he launched proceedings, the ET noted that at no time had the company sought any medical or occupational health advice on what reasonable adjustments were needed to ensure that he was not disadvantaged. The company clearly had no idea how to manage a disabled employee and chose to solve the problem by asking him to remain away from the workplace.

In upholding his disability discrimination complaints, the ET found that the company viewed his attendance at the office as a problem almost from the outset. It was not familiar with the duties it owed him as a disabled employee and took no meaningful steps to fill that gap in its knowledge. Nothing at all was done to enable his return to the office and the company had done the precise opposite of, so far as possible, enabling him to work on a level playing field with non-disabled employees. The imposition of the PIP was used to achieve his pre-determined dismissal.

The man withdrew an unfair dismissal claim on the basis that he did not have the length of service required to pursue such a complaint. The company, however, conceded that his dismissal was wrongful in that he had not been given notice of his dismissal or payment in lieu. In the absence of agreement, the amount of his compensation will be assessed at a further hearing.

Contact Samantha Glynn on 0808 166 8860 for advice on any discrimination issue or alternatively email her on S.Glynn@sydneymitchell.co.uk.

UK Top Tier Firm 2020 Lexcel Practice Management Standard Birmingham Law Firm of the Year for 2011 Resolution Collaborative Family Lawyer
The Law Society Accredited in Family Law Conveyancing Quality Scheme