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Autistic employee disadvantaged by failure to adjust open plan workplace

Makbool Javaid

In Sherbourne v N Power Ltd, an ET upheld S’s claim that his employer indirectly discriminated against him on the grounds of his disability, i.e. autism, and failed to make reasonable adjustments to his working environment. S worked in an open plan setting with a busy walkway behind him, and building works going on around him, and he became overwhelmed and distracted. The flexible office environment also caused S problems meaning that he was not always at his own desk. As a result, S had a breakdown, went off sick and was diagnosed by his GP as suffering from an anxiety disorder. An ET found that discrimination had occurred because of a continuous management failure to take reasonable steps to understand S’s disability and a failure to implement two sets of adjustments, i.e. (1) four recommendations from the employer’s in-house doctor to facilitate S’s return to work, all of which the employer indicated were achievable; and, (2) dismissing S without completing a management agreed combined welfare and capability procedure, which had included attempting to find S an alternative role.

The updates are kindly provided by Simons Muirhead & Burton Law firm

This update provides summary information and comment on the subject areas covered. Where employment tribunal and appellate court cases are reported, the information does not set out all of the facts, the legal arguments presented and help judgments made in every aspect of the case. Click on the links to access full details. If no link is provided, contact us for more information.  Employment law is subject to constant change either by statute or by interpretation by the courts. While every care has been taken in compiling this information, SM&B cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Specialist legal advice must be taken on any legal issues that may arise before embarking upon any formal course of action.

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