The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments when there is a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) which puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared with a non-disabled person. Failure to make reasonable adjustments will amount to disability discrimination.
In Carreras v United First Partners Research the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that an assumption that a disabled employee would continue to work late constituted a PCP triggering the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Mr Carreras was employed as an analyst for a brokerage firm. At the outset of his employment he regularly worked long hours, often until 9pm. Upon returning to work after a serious accident, Mr Carreras continued to suffer from a number of symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating. As a result he found it difficult to work late and initially worked shorter hours on his return to work. His employer requested on a number of occasions that he work late and subsequently assumed that he would work late at least once or twice a week, asking him which nights he intended to work late. When Mr Carreras emailed his employer objecting to working late due to tiredness, this gave rise to a heated exchange during which Mr Carreras was told that if he did not like it he could leave.
Bringing a disability discrimination claim, Mr Carreras relied upon the “requirement” to work late as the PCP. His former employer argued that Mr Carreras had only been requested, not required, to work late. However, the EAT recognised that Mr Carreras had clearly felt obliged to work late. The EAT went on to confirm that the purpose of the Equality Act was to protect employees and the phrase ‘provision, criterion or practice’ should be widely construed and an expectation placed upon an employee could therefore constitute a PCP. This case serves as a useful reminder to employers that all working practices, not just contractual terms and/or specific requirements, should be considered in the light of a disabled employee’s circumstances.