The duty to make reasonable adjustments may require an employer to take steps to avoid the dismissal of a disabled employee, such as permit a phased return to work.

Last year the House of Lords severely restricted employees' ability to claim disability-related discrimination where they are treated less favourably for a reason connected with disability, eg, long-term absence (seee-bulletin). Such a claim is now defeated if the employer would have treated a non-disabled employee's absence in the same way. In that situation, the only option (until the Equality Bill is enacted) is to claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments to a provision, criterion or practice.

There were doubts as to whether the duty to make reasonable adjustments applied to the act of dismissal. The EAT has now ruled that it does.

The employer here had breached the duty by failing to permit a phased return. Although not argued in this case, in some situations the duty might also require an employer to adjust their absence management policy by waiting for a longer period than specified before taking a decision on dismissal. (Fareham College v Walters, EAT)