Q: One of my staff has been on long term sick leave following a life-changing ordeal. Now she feels ready to resume her job but cannot face coming into the office. She wants me to make “reasonable adjustments” that will enable her to try working from home.
Firstly, the equipment for her to work from home is an outlay I can ill afford, particularly as the arrangement may not work. Secondly, teamwork plays a big part in how we as a business operate, and I don’t feel working from home supports our objective. If I refuse to make the required “reasonable adjustments”, can it be classed as discrimination?
A: Under discrimination laws, the duty on employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ extends to any ‘provision, criterion or practice applied by or on behalf of an employer’. It is not a question of whether an employer is justified in refusing to make an adjustment, it is whether such an adjustment would be reasonable.
In considering whether an adjustment is reasonable, an Employment Tribunal would consider:- whether the changes would be effective and practical; the cost and affordability for the employer; whether financial assistance such as a grant might be available; whether the changes might cause a breach of other legislation, e.g. health & safety. Other considerations would be the nature of the employer’s activities and the size of the adjustment undertaking.
A trial period during which a disabled person works from home is, in itself, unlikely to count as a reasonable adjustment in a disability discrimination claim, rather it would be seen as a test to establish whether a reasonable adjustment would work. However, if you refused to allow a trial period of home working, then it could be argued that disallowing the disabled employee to work from home is not a reasonable adjustment as you would not have tested the idea out. It would be worthwhile seeking more specific advice from an employment solicitor.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194