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When is an employer liable for disability discrimination?

By February 21, 2023February 23rd, 2023Current Affairs, HR Strategy, Top Tip
disability discrimination

Disability discrimination is unlike other types of discrimination (sex, race, religion etc) in that there is a requirement that for an employer to be liable for acts of discrimination, they must have known, or to have reasonably known that the employee was disabled.

The circumstances

In the case of Preston v E.on Energy Solutions Ltd, Mr Preston, a Complaints Manager suffered from primary reading epilepsy, which meant that he was at increased of suffering from seizures when reading.

Mr Preston went off sick with a stress-related condition, that was not connected to his epilepsy and therefore the employer was under no legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments at this point. Prior to this absence, the company was not aware that he was at substantial risk of suffering seizures when reading.

Eventually, Mr Preston was dismissed for his conduct in the sickness absence process because he continued to refuse to engage with the company on the measures that had been put in place to support a return. His continued refusal of reasonable management requests and even though Occupational Health reported that he was fit to return to work, he failed to do so.

The judgement

Mr Preston raised a claim of disability discrimination, however, the Employment Tribunal found that E.on Energy Solutions Ltd had not known, nor could have reasonably known about his increased health risks until after he had gone off sick with the stress-related condition. This meant that the company had no legal duty to make reasonable adjustments before putting the adjustments in place.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal also dismissed the claimant’s appeal, and upheld the original tribunal’s finding, that his sickness absence which led to his behaviour for which he got dismissed for was unrelated to his disability and the dismissal was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Creating an equal, diverse, and inclusive workplace

All companies should work towards promoting equality of treatment, through every aspect of their business. At HR Solutions, we hold regular Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training courses to support businesses and their employees on what can often be a difficult area to approach.

Our CPD accredited, half day course celebrates equality, diversity, and inclusion and highlights the advantage of having a diverse workforce. It also reminds attendees of the, often hard fought for, legislation that underpins the Equality Act 2010, and challenges stereotypes.

It also helps managers to understand that some actions require some lateral thinking to ensure that they are not discriminating against a certain group of staff, even indirectly.

If you would like to book on to our next training course, you can do so here.

We are here to help

If you require support on this subject or wish to browse our available services, you can contact us on 0844 324 5840 or get in touch with us here.

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