It has long been established that an employer is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employers. The case of Coleman v Attridge Law held that those with direct discrimination claims do not themselves need to be disabled but can be associated with a disabled person. In that case it was Mrs Coleman’s daughter who had the disability.
The Court of Appeal has recently decided in the case of Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence that an employer is not under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for an employee associated with a disabled person. In this case, the Claimant was not disabled but had a daughter who had Down’s Syndrome and was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. She requested a transfer from Germany back to the UK on compassionate grounds so her daughter could access specialist education and training. Her request was refused and she brought a claim that the refusal amounted to a breach of the obligation on her employer to make reasonable adjustments.
The Court held that on the wording of the Act, the reasonable adjustment duty will only apply where the employee or job applicant is themselves disabled. There is no obligation on employers for a non-disabled employee who is in some way associated with a disabled person to make such adjustments. The Equal Treatment Framework Directive also does not require the duty to be extended.
This is a welcome decision for employers who can be liable for discrimination against employees who are associated with those that are disabled but the duty to make reasonable adjustments does not extend that far.