What amounts to a reasonable adjustment

The G4S case involved an employee who had a back injury; as this was a long term condition they were classed as having a disability under the Equality Act.

When they came back to work they could not do their previous job and so were given another role he could undertake. This other role paid 10% less, but they ring-fenced his salary for a year. After a year, he was then given a choice to remain in the role but at a lower salary, or leave. He did not accept the lower salary, was dismissed, and then brought claim.

The Court held that reducing the employee’s salary, even in a different job, was an unreasonable adjustment under the Equality Act and upheld his complaints of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

 

The effect of the decision

Reasonable adjustments do need to be considered when an employee has a long term physical or mental impairment and protected by the Equality Act. Recent cases have tended to err on the need to make less, rather than more, adjustments. The G4S case has firmly stemmed that tide.

Any adjustments need to be reasonable given the financial resources of the employer. Here, however, the Court decided that:

  • there was no evidence presented which would support the argument that overpaying for a role would have caused difficulties within the workplace;
  • the company had sufficient financial resources to overpay for the role; and
  • even if it had caused people to complain, you cannot compare a disabled employee’s salary against that of an non-disabled employee.

In addition, the Court commented upon other areas where adjustments may be need to be considered. Importantly, it cast doubt on the earlier cases which indicated that a reasonable adjustment should not include needing to extend sick pay.