Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Defining reasonable adjustment

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The duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a disability - as opposed to dismissal for long-term illness and capability - is an issue that not infrequently affect schools and colleges. The employment appeal tribunal (EAT) does now appear to be coming to a clearer definition of the kinds of reasonable adjustments that employers should make.

The EAT has said that for a discrimination claim to succeed there must be a provision, criterion or practice that is the basis of the claim. Then there is the nature of the premises (or contractual working practices). There also is the identity of those who the disabled person must be compared with and the nature and extent of the disadvantage to the disabled person.

The kinds of adjustment that can be made are also clear. In one particular case, additional support, a reduction in hours, the use of technology to enable the claimant to work from home, the provision of a mentor to bring him/her back up to speed, and an attempt to find alternative employment were all reasonable adjustments that might have been made. It might also be possible to arrange to come into work outside the peak periods to avoid stress that might set off the condition.

It was not necessary that these should have been discussed with the claimant as long as the effect was to enable him to continue in employment. The purpose of reasonable adjustments was "to prevent him being dismissed, not to bring him back to work on the same basis".

While it is clearly impossible for a teacher to operate if s/he cannot take a class, reductions in hours and adjustments to timetables are clearly likely to be considered reasonable. While someone who is manifestly unfit can and should be dismissed, the burden of proof is on the school to demonstrate that every reasonable effort has been made to prevent it.

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