Adjustment must remove disadvantage in the first place
In Job Centre Plus & Ors v Wilson, the EAT overturned a tribunal’s finding that an employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a disabled employee. The only adjustment she would consider would not have removed the substantial disadvantage she was placed at by the working arrangements.
Ms Wilson suffers from a psychological condition that manifests itself in agoraphobia and panic and anxiety attacks in new situations. As a result of her condition she had been given a back office administrative role with minimal public contact in a workplace near to her home. When her workplace was closed she said that working from home was the only way in which she could continue to work for JCP. There were no existing vacancies suited to home working and Ms Wilson rejected six other alternatives offered to her, which included reasonable adjustments in each case. A tribunal decided that JCP had failed to comply with its duty to make reasonable adjustments. In particular, the tribunal were not convinced that home working was not reasonably practicable.
The EAT upheld JCP’s appeal. The evidence demonstrated that the work that was available required supervision and contact with the public, neither of which could happen in Ms Wilson’s home. Nor could she have face-to-face contact with the public. The adjustments offered to enable working at other locations were reasonable and it was not possible for Ms Wilson to work at home. As working from home would not have removed the disadvantage suffered by Ms Wilson, then the issue of whether it was ‘reasonably practicable’ was not relevant.
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