'Extremely aggrieved' | HR thwarts disabled worker's promotion hopes - how did they get it wrong?

HR thwarts disabled worker's promotion hopes - how did they get it wrong?

A worker who was denied a chance at promotion, because his disability meant he couldn’t drive, has won a five-figure sum at an employment tribunal.

HMRC worker Hamish Drummond, from Dundee, Scotland, was qualified to apply for one of 10 senior tax investigator job vacancies in 2020.

However, despite his 20 years of tax office experience, despite the job being a more senior role of the position he already held, his hopes were dashed on account of his disability.

HR bosses at HMRC said that a driving licence was essential for the senior job. Unfortunately, Drummond suffers from extreme onsets of dizziness and fainting, which ultimately led to his driving license being revoked in 2018, the tribunal heard.

What was HR's logic for this decision?

The tribunal heard that Drummond asked to be considered for the role regardless, because of his experience in the job. But in a letter from HMRC regional boss Paul Curry reportedly told him he still wouldn’t be a contender for the job, and that he was not being unfairly treated because of his disability, because he could always be considered for a different role which did not require a driving license.

“On this occasion you are not considered as being substantially disadvantaged as there are many roles in HMRC... that you could do if you are unable to drive” Curry wrote.

He added: “It is perfectly reasonable in an organisation of our size for... ‘reasonable adjustment’ to be for another role, and for this to be identified without the need for additional funding and costs incurred to support the restrictions that being an individual without a driving licence would pose."

Hamish told the panel that he was "extremely disappointed and aggrieved" at being unable to apply for the role.

An employment tribunal has now ruled that Drummond should not have been ruled out of the application process because of his inability to drive.

In a written ruling, Judge Melanie Sangster said: "It was not proportionate to simply decline the claimant’s application because he did not have a driving licence. Six additional Higher Officers with driving licences were employed to be based in Edinburgh, as a result of the recruitment exercise. There was approval for ten positions.

"If the claimant had been employed in the role, as well as the six who were offered the position, the respondent would have been in the same position in relation to the number of Higher Officer caseworkers who could drive. Denying the claimant the opportunity to be considered for the role was not proportionate in these circumstances."

Drummond was awarded more than £20,000 in compensation.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We are reviewing the judgement to consider what lessons can be learnt for the future. We are committed to treating all our staff fairly and with consideration at all times.”

What the law currently says about disability discrimination

All employees have protection from unfair dismissal for reasons attached to a ‘protected disability’ and employees should not be directly or indirectly discriminated as a result of a disability.

Under the Equality Act 2010 a person has a 'disability' if they have:

(i) a physical or mental impairment;

(ii) which has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Under the Act, 'Long term' means that the impairment:

(iii) has lasted or will last for at least 12 months: or

(iv) can come and go or is likely to last for the rest of the person's life

The law on disability discrimination based on a perceived disability is also evolving since it’s recognition by the Court of Appeal in 2019. It does, however, reinforce the values enshrined in Employment Law that someone with a disability should be treated fairly and by extension if an employer wrongly perceives someone to have a disability and is treated unfairly as a result, they should be afforded suitable protection from being treated unfairly.

Disability support on the rise, but still work to do

Many HR leaders might take pride in their firm’s commitment to improving the lives of its disabled and differently-abled workforce. However, recent research shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.

In fact,according to new research by the global hiring platform Indeed, only two in five disabled workers believe there are good job opportunities available to them, despite a surge in confidence among UK employers that are recruiting and developing the careers of people with disabilities.

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Indeed found there has been a 1,100% increase in the number of job ads mentioning ‘Disability Confident’ in five years. However, just 40% of disabled workers believe there are good job opportunities available to them, while 68% agreed employers should be doing more to support them.

One year after the government announced its National Disability Strategy to improve the lives of disabled people, Indeed analysed millions of job postings and found that the share of paid roles at Disability Confident employers increased by a staggering 1,100% in five years.

The findings suggest employers are proactively addressing barriers faced by disabled people throughout the hiring process and in the workplace and are making steps to build more inclusive cultures.

The Disability Confident Scheme was launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in November 2016 and aims to give employers the techniques, skills and confidence they need to recruit, retain and develop people with disabilities and long term health conditions.

The Rise of Globally Distributed Teams

The Rise of Globally Distributed Teams

While arguments over remote work continue, a quieter movement is rapidly overtaking hesitancy in the headlines: the rise of distributed work.

Employees discovered increased mobility and flexibility through remote work, while businesses grappled with uncertain budgets and new challenges to measure productivity and engagement.

Download this report to understand how distributed workforces are growing; how companies are optimising their headcount and operational costs in the age of remote work; and what different groups see in the future for remote work.

What you’ll learn from this report:

  • The most critical advantages businesses gain in international hiring

  • Why businesses use remote and distributed work policies to increase retention and productivity

  • The emerging employer of record (EOR) model for increased speed, flexibility, and compliance

  • Where leaders and employees expect remote work to grow or shrink in the next five years

  • Comparisons of in-office, hybrid, and fully remote organisations, and their respective advantages

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Figures published earlier this month showed nearly 19,000 employers have so far signed up to the scheme with DWP analysis suggesting the scheme has had a significant impact on disability employment practices. A survey found nearly half (49%) of scheme members reported that they had recruited at least one person with a disability, long-term health or mental health condition as a result of the scheme. This rose to 66% amongst larger employers.

Despite this positive progress, Indeed’s research found that 58% agree that finding a job is harder for them than others, highlighting that there is still some way to go towards making the world of work more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities, as set out in the National Disability Strategy.

However, with only 52% of respondents to Indeed’s survey feeling confident they can reach their full potential at work, more needs to be done to ensure they thrive. Alongside pay, more flexibility with hours (39%) and location (34%) have been cited as key elements that could make a job better for people with disabilities.

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