High Street Retailer ordered to pay £25k to a disabled worker after failing to make reasonable adjustments. An Employment Tribunal has ruled that motoring retailer, Halfords Autocentres Ltd, discriminated against an employee with cerebral palsy on the basis of his disability.
The employee began working at Halfords Autocentre in Milton Keynes in October 2019. He disclosed his condition during the interview and explained that he struggled with some tasks, such as changing tyres. His condition affected his left side, producing weakness in his leg and arm and limiting his ability to handle heavy products.
However, as his condition deteriorated, his hip became inflamed and his ankle bones rubbed, which made weight-bearing painful, and he later had to use a crutch to help ease the pain. As a result, the employee took several days off work and additional time off to attend medical appointments.
Halfords conducted a series of risk assessments to enable them to make reasonable adjustments. However, the tribunal found that ‘the only adjustments that had been implemented to mitigate the claimant’s disability were improvised and at best sporadically employed’. For instance, to limit standing time which caused pain, the employee used a stool from the tearoom at his desk. Other measures, such as ensuring he had sufficient time to take breaks were inconsistent and rarely happened.
Despite several periods of sickness absence during 2020, the employee had only one return-to-work interview, even though it was company policy to conduct such interviews after every absence. In January 2021, the employee was issued with a ‘record of improvement‘ which stated that he needed to make “a concerted effort” to ensure his attendance was ‘100% going forward‘.
In June 2021, the employee was invited to a disciplinary hearing regarding alleged gross misconduct for failure to identify a missing wheel bolt during an MOT test. Following the hearing, he received a final written warning.
In August 2021, the employee submitted a grievance in relation to his attendance warning, the respondent’s failure to implement risk assessments, and the disciplinary procedure. However, this was dismissed on all three points. He appealed the decision and Halfords reversed its decision on point 2, conceding that it had not properly implemented the risk assessment measures. The employee then resigned in November 2021 and brought claims of constructive dismissal and disability discrimination against Halfords.
Following a hearing in May 2023, the Employment Tribunal rejected the claims of harassment, victimisation and discriminatory dismissal, but found that the claims for discrimination arising from a disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments were both well founded and therefore succeeded.
The employee was awarded £24,199.45 for injury to feelings as a result of his treatment. The tribunal also recommended that Halfords review its equality, diversity and inclusion training at management level and not just new starters.
Debbie Knowles, MD of EML commented:
“The question of what constitutes a reasonable adjustment is not defined in the Equality Act 2010, and it is an area with which many employers struggle. There are a number of factors which the Tribunal will take into account in determining reasonableness, but the list is not exhaustive, and each case is examined on its particular circumstances. If the company failed to implement adjustments which were identified in its own risk assessment, they will need to have made a very strong case as to why they weren’t deemed to be reasonable. Clearly, the Tribunal wasn’t satisfied that they had”.
If you need assistance with any policies or procedures relating to anything mentioned in this article, or you have any other HR or Employment Law issues you would like to discuss, please contact us on 01942 727200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and speak to one of our qualified experts.