Role swap was a reasonable adjustment
South Yorkshire Police v Jelic, the EAT held that the swapping over of a
disabled post-holder with another post holder can be a reasonable adjustment,
and if the employer fails to give it consideration there is bound to be a
finding of disability discrimination.
After a series of
stress-related absences, PC Jelic was transferred to a role in the Safer
Neighbourhoods Unit (SNU), which involved little face-to-face contact with the
public. PC Jelic acquired significant expertise, performed the job very well
and had very few absences. However, after three years, medical advice was that
PC Jelic’s condition – Chronic Anxiety Disorder – was permanent, and he was
classed as disabled. He was fit for his current duties but would struggle in a
public facing role. As the role of officers in the SNU had evolved, and now
involved a lot of contact with the public, PC Jelic was retired on medical
The EAT agreed with an
employment tribunal that the medical retirement was disability discrimination,
and could have been avoided had a reasonable adjustment been made. Although
there was no existing vacancy, a PC Franklin, who was able to undertake public
facing roles, worked in a role which needed the expertise developed by PC Jelic
and involved no public contact. A reasonable employer should have considered
swapping the two officers over, particularly where the employer had a
contractual entitlement to order the move, should PC Franklin not agree.
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