• How Far Must an Employer Go to Make ‘Reasonable Adjustments' to Avoid a Disability Discrimination Claim?
  • November 3, 2010 | Author: Alex Denny
  • Law Firm: Faegre & Benson LLP - London Office
  • In the case of Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police v Mr Jelic (EAT 2010), it was held that it would have been reasonable for the employer to swap the jobs being undertaken by the Claimant and another police constable in order to accommodate the Claimant's disability. This arguably broadens the scope of an employer's obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

    Mr Jelic originally worked as a police constable but he began to suffer from chronic anxiety syndrome and it was decided by an occupational health adviser that he was not fit for any front-line duties. Mr Jelic was then assigned work which involved minimal contact with the public and he continued to work successfully in this way for over two years.  However, the nature of his job then changed and required him once again to engage in face-to-face contact with the public.  The Chief Constable decided to medically retire Mr Jelic, who claimed disability discrimination on the basis of failure to make reasonable adjustments. 

    The EAT examined the types of adjustment that would be reasonable in the context of disability discrimination.  It held that the examples of adjustments given in s18 of the Disability Discrimination Act were non-exhaustive and that, in this case, it would have been reasonable to consider swapping roles with another employee. 

    This arguably broadens the scope of an employer's obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.  It remains to be seen the extent to which this case will be followed in practice, but important factors are likely to include whether the other employee consents to the change, the size of the organisation and whether the roles are easily interchangeable.