The claimant in G4S Cash Solutions (UK) Ltd v Powell was employed as a cash point maintenance engineer. When he could no longer do that job because of a back injury he was transferred to a new, less senior, job as a "key runner", delivering parts to engineers, while retaining his original engineer's salary. The following year, however, his employers told him that they were only prepared to employ him in the key runner role at a reduced rate of pay – the "going rate" for that role. By that stage the claimant had been undertaking the new job for a year, and had understood that both it and the rate of pay were permanent. When he refused to accept the new terms he was dismissed. He argued that the employer had breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments by not maintaining the pay protection.
There was no dispute that, in effectively being required to be fit to do the engineering work, the claimant was at a substantial disadvantage compared to employees who were not disabled. The issue was the adjustment – was it reasonable for the employer to have to maintain his original rate of pay? The Tribunal and EAT agreed that it was.
It is well established that the duty to make reasonable adjustments may require an employer to treat an employee more favourably than others – for example, to be appointed to an alternative post, even if not the best candidate. Although a claim for enhanced sick pay had been rejected in O'Hanlon v HMRC, the Court of Appeal saying that such a claim would be a rare and exceptional case, this did not mean that protection of ordinary pay should not be a reasonable adjustment, in the same way as allowing additional (paid) absence for illness or rehabilitation, for example.
There were particular elements to this case – as well as the low cost to the employer relative to its size, it was clearly relevant that the arrangement had lasted some time and the employee believed it was permanent. Nevertheless, the decision does indicate that the extent of potential reasonable adjustments in terms of payment to an employee for time not worked may be greater than previously thought.