Case study: Making reasonable adjustments for employees

THIS case highlights the importance of making reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

BACKGROUND: Michelle Proctor began working at Haxby Group Practice in 1994 as a clerical assistant. She had informed her employer that she had arthritis in her hands and tendonitis of the wrists and arms. She had also undergone carpal tunnel decompression surgery.

In 2015, Haxby surgery merged with another practice, resulting in an increase in Ms Proctor’s workload. She was absent from work for three weeks in March that year due to pain in both her hands. As a result, occupational health recommended that voice recognition software should be installed to help manage her condition and reduce the amount of typing needed for the role.

Ms Proctor made repeated requests to have the software installed on her computer, contacting HR and her line manager, sourcing quotes and arranging demonstrations. The software was eventually installed around two years later, during which time Ms Proctor had taken several periods of sick leave due to her condition.

During that period of absence, she was offered a flexible working arrangement where she would be paid for the hours she worked. However, she was told she would lose her sick pay entitlement under the new arrangement due in part to her high Bradford factor score.

Ms Proctor wanted to remain on her permanent contract and, following another period of sick leave, she raised a formal grievance in May 2017 before resigning in September.

OUTCOME: Haxby Group Practice was ordered by the employment tribunal to pay Ms Proctor compensation totalling £45,000 for unfair dismissal, loss of earnings and damage to feelings after her employer failed to make necessary adjustments for her to work.

Employers should be mindful that they have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees and they need to ensure that they take necessary steps to enable employees to carry out their role.