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Reasonable Adjustments and Fairness of Dismissal

June 08, 2022 | By: Claire Malley

reasonable adjustments

In the recent case of Knightley v Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Trust, the Employment Tribunal had to consider whether the Respondent’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for the Claimant’s disability during a formal capability process rendered the whole dismissal unfair.

The parties were going through the internal formal capability procedure which resulted in the Claimant’s dismissal. Subsequently, the Claimant wished to appeal her dismissal and asked the Respondent to extend the timeframe given for the appeal to be submitted as a reasonable adjustment for her disability. The Respondent refused this request.

As a result, the Claimant has brought a number of claims against her employer. She claimed unfair dismissal, discrimination arising from disability and employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for her disability during the capability process.

Failure to Provide Reasonable Adjustments

The Employment Tribunal found that the overall dismissal was a fair one, a process was followed by the employer which was fair and reasonable and it was ruled that a lack of an appeal would have affected the fairness of the Claimant’s dismissal. Tribunal also found that there was no discrimination arising out of disability, however, the Employment Tribunal did find that the employer did fail to make reasonable adjustments for the Claimant during the internal process.

The Claimant proceeded to lodge an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the basis that the Employment Tribunal’s finding that there was a failure to make reasonable adjustments meant that she was deprived of her right to appeal her dismissal and therefore, her unfair dismissal claim should be allowed. She also appealed on the basis that, if the other two arguments were true then the overall dismissal was in breach of the Equality Act 2010, specifically that her dismissal was, in fact, discrimination arising from disability.

Tribunal Outcome

The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the whole appeal. It held that the three claims had separate legal tests to satisfy which meant that, just because the employer had failed on one claim it did not mean that it failed on all others. Essentially, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that just because one claim succeeded it did not mean that other claims must also succeed as a result. The EAT explained that where a finding of fact is made on one claim and those findings of fact also apply to the other claims, it does not mean that the legal tests of the other claims have been satisfied just because the finding of fact is relevant, each claim must be assessed on it’s own detail and tests. In the Claimant’s case, the conclusion that there was a failure to put in place reasonable adjustments did not mean that the overall dismissal was an unfair one nor did it mean that the dismissal itself was a discriminatory one simply because a reasonable adjustment during the process was not in place.

This case shows that, even if the employer does get one part of the process wrong, it may not necessarily mean that the rest of the process engaged would be unfair.

Speak to our Employment Law Tribunal team for practical guidance surrounding any HR issues you may have.

About the Author
Claire Malley
Claire Malley
Claire Malley, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services

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