In this post we refer to the 2018 case of:
Mrs Linsley, who worked for HMRC, suffered from ulcerative colitis; a condition which is exacerbated by stress and which requires her to have easy access to toilet facilities.
HMRC had a parking space policy which made clear that people with disabilities should be given priority when HMRC parking spaces were allocated.
Until Mrs Linsley moved to a new site, she had always benefitted from this policy and had a dedicated parking space close to the building and toilet facilities. However, when she moved to a site at Benton Park View, she was not allocated a dedicated parking space. Instead she was given a parking space near the toilets but only if she failed to get a space near the building (and toilets) on a first come first served basis. This would require her to first drive around and try and find a space (something which caused her stress) and sign paperwork with the office (without the need to explain her condition). Alternatively, she could park in an unauthorised zone, incurring a notional sanction which the employer would ensure was not applied to her. She would also be required to later move the vehicle. Importantly, no consideration was given to the stress caused to Mrs Linsley as a result of not having a dedicated parking space and no explanation was given as to why the car parking policy was being disapplied.
The employment tribunal held that HMRC had made reasonable adjustments by providing an alternative to the dedicated parking space. However, the EAT held that the tribunal had failed to consider the following:
1. The particular disadvantage suffered by the employee when assessing the reasonableness of the steps taken by the employer; in this instance HMRC had not considered the impact stress had on Mrs Linsley’s condition and the fact that driving round to find a space caused her anxiety.
2. The fact that HMRC had failed to follow its own policy and had not provided a cogent reason for why it had done so.
3. The long history of medical evidence and correspondence about Mrs Linsley’s condition. An employer should review matters comprehensively and not base its approach on the most recent evidence only. HMRC appeared to have made its decision purely on the basis that Mrs Linsley was no longer a blue badge holder as she had not applied to have her badge renewed. Nevertheless, she was still disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore HMRC should have either followed its own policy or given a very clear reason for why it was ceasing to do so and why it felt its alternative was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Whether an adjustment is reasonable or not is judged objectively. The fact that an employer may believe it to be reasonable is not sufficient; it must be deemed reasonable on an objective basis by reference to the actual disability, the effect of that disability on the employee, any policies that the employer already has in place and in light of all the medical evidence available, not the most recent.