Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Employment Appeal Tribunal case ruling re-affirms obligations to ensure disabled people have equal access to justice

gavelEmployment tribunals and other bodies have been reminded of their duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate claimants’ disabilities, following the conclusion of a case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The claim was brought by Mr Rackham, who has has Asperger’s syndrome. He brought a claim in an employment tribunal against NHS Professionals Ltd. The tribunal ordered Rackham to obtain a medical report to determine firstly whether he was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 and secondly, what reasonable adjustments were required to allow Mr Rackham to participate in the tribunal hearing. In the absence of a medical report the parties (NHS Professionals Ltd and Mr Rackham) agreed the adjustments necessary for the hearing.

However, Mr Rackham then requested an adjournment of the hearing to enable him to obtain a medical report. The tribunal refused on the basis that adjustments had been agreed between the parties. Mr Rackham appealed to the EAT.

The EAT confirmed that employment tribunals have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate claimants’ disabilities. The purpose of such adjustments was to overcome the ‘social, attitudinal or environmental difficulties’ claimants who are disabled may face in bringing a claim in the employment tribunal.

Other significant points arising from the decision included that every disabled person’s case is different and what is a reasonable adjustment must be tailored to the needs of that individual. Likewise, ‘ground rules hearings’, as described in the Equal Treatment Bench Book, are likely to be helpful for setting down a baseline from which decisions may be considered.

Additionally, the EAT affirmed that practical guidance for employment tribunals is set out in the Equal Treatment Bench Book. Notwithstanding this, the EAT held that the employment tribunal in this particular case had complied with the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

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