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Autistic coach wins unfavourable treatment claim following DWP’s failure to make reasonable adjustments

The case of Mr J J v The Department for Work and Pensions, revealing a concerning disregard for reasonable adjustments towards an autistic employee. Details of Mr. JJ’s employment journey, from struggles with IT systems to requests for accommodations. Uncover the tribunal’s ruling in favor of Mr. JJ, emphasizing the importance of implementing reasonable adjustments and upholding policies to support disabled employees in the workplace.

In the case of Mr J J v The Department for Work and Pensions the Department for Work and Pensions displayed unfavourable treatment towards an autistic work coach and neglected to implement reasonable adjustments to accommodate him.

Mr. JJ commenced his employment as a work coach at the DWP in January 2021 on a 12-month fixed-term contract. Despite the job description indicating the use of various IT systems, Mr. JJ struggled with the ‘Build’ IT system during training sessions. He experienced “shutdowns” where he couldn’t absorb information and had sought an autism assessment, although he was warned of a lengthy wait for a diagnosis.

An occupational health report recommended reasonable adjustments until the autism assessment was completed, proposing consideration for different learning styles to prevent overload.

In April 2021, Mr. JJ requested non-computer-based work, agreeing to review CVs with no customer contact, which constituted only 5% of a work coach’s typical responsibilities, as per the DWP.

During a probation meeting in May 2021, Mr. JJ expressed his inability to continue in the work coach role, leading his manager to suggest resuming Build training, a requirement for passing probation, which Mr. JJ declined.

Following advice from her superior, Mr. JJ’s manager recommended terminating his employment at the end of his probationary period and Mr. JJ received a dismissal letter in July 2021.

Mr. JJ appealed against his dismissal, resulting in his probation being extended to October 2021, with a plan to complete his work coach training. However, he was subsequently signed off work with stress in August 2021.

During his sick leave in October 2021, Mr. JJ received a letter stating he had passed his probation, followed by his manager offering him alternative roles within the DWP. However, a clash with his autism assessment delayed discussions.

Upon receiving an autism diagnosis in December 2021, Mr. JJ was allowed to bring a representative from a specialist organisation to meetings. However, during the final meeting in March 2021, his manager’s approach was described as aggressive, with inappropriate questioning about Mr. JJ’s autism and medication.

Mr. JJ resigned shortly after, citing feeling unheard and unsupported as a disabled person.

The employment tribunal ruled in favour of Mr. JJ, highlighting the failure to implement reasonable adjustments and the disregard for the job carving policy during his probation. Compensation will be determined in a hearing scheduled for July.

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