Disability discrimination | Employee told his illness 'would not suit the needs of the business'

Employee told his illness 'would not suit the needs of the business'

A recent tribunal has decided that an Essex-based hospital discriminated against an employee with a disability.

The aspiring employee at Harlow's Princess Alexandra Hospital, who has Scheuermann’s disease, severe fibromyalgia and Pars Defect, secured a job as an A&E clerical coordinator at the hospital, a step up from the position he was currently working in.

While waiting for a start date, the candidate contracted some temporary shifts through NHS Professionals (NHSP). During this time, his fibromyalgia was aggravated, leading him to ask for a part-time role instead of a full-time position.

In response, the hospital told him “it would not suit the needs of the business for a part-time position”.

A manager later added that: “This would not be something I would want to commit to being as you struggle at times with your health problems and no disrespect to you, but I really need to know that shifts would not be cancelled at short notice.”

As a result of the message from the senior employee, a judge ruled that the inability to offer the worker work – a decision which would have been different if they didn’t have a disability – was discrimination.

The judgement from Judge Bedeau added: "Her statement to the claimant indicates that his disabilities significantly influenced her decision not to commit herself to him working on Bank. The impact on him was that he felt it was an unjustifiable attack on his commitment to work and created an uncertain future for him. He went on sick leave two days later. In view of our findings above, we have come to the conclusion that this claim is wellfounded.”

Reasonable adjustments

Making reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities is crucial for several reasons. It promotes inclusivity and diversity within the workforce, fostering a more equitable and socially responsible corporate culture. These adjustments enable disabled employees to perform at their best, boosting morale and productivity.

Beyond this, ensuring reasonable adjustments ensures protection against discrimination claims, safeguarding a company's reputation. Employers should realise an inclusive workplace enhances creativity and problem-solving, as diverse perspectives lead to innovative solutions. Overall, making reasonable accommodations not only fulfills ethical and legal obligations but also contributes to a more prosperous, empathetic, and competitive company.

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