A recent Court of Appeal ruling has determined that the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees does not extend to making adjustments in respect of disabled persons associated with the employee.
It is well established law that the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 relating to discrimination extend to persons associated with an employee. For example, an employee might claim they have been less favorably treated because they are a primary carer for a disabled child and they are overlooked for promotion because they need to take time off frequently to look after the child. Such a claim may be brought as a direct disability discrimination claim, even though the disability is that of the child rather than the claimant.
The Equality Act 2010 also imposes a duty on employers to consider and make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.
In the case of Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence the Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether the duty to make reasonable adjustments should extend to disabled persons associated with an employee. The facts of this case were that Mrs Hainsworth was employed by the Ministry of Defence abroad and requested a transfer to the UK so her daughter with Down’s Syndrome could attend specialist education. The request was refused and Mrs Hainsworth argued her employer had failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments.
The Court of Appeal held that it is clear the duty to make reasonable adjustments contained within the Equality Act 2010 extends only to disabled employees or prospective employees. The “associated person” elements of disability discrimination legislation are not reflected in the provisions relating to reasonable adjustments.
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