Ms Kuranchie was disabled, suffering from dyslexia and dyspraxia. In early 2013 she spoke with her then line manager about her disability and how the lack of adjustments was causing her to have to work long hours to enable her to get her work done. In response her line manager said he would arrange for specialist equipment and for a static desk to be available to her. Ms Kuranchie also asked for a flexible working arrangement whereby she worked compressed hours. That is, a 36-hour week over four, rather than five, days, with either Monday or Friday as her non-working day. She said that she believed that was the only adjustment required. The Home Office approved her request in May 2013 and allowed her to work compressed hours i.e. she worked longer days for four days a week. However, the Home Office did not reduce her workload.
The employment tribunal found the Home Office had a provision or practice of giving Ms Kuranchie the same volume of work as her colleagues. This placed her at a substantial disadvantage compared to her non-disabled colleagues because it took her longer to complete the work due to her disabilities. As a result, she worked longer hours than her colleagues in order to complete the work. The Home Office should have made the reasonable adjustment of reducing her workload to avoid the disadvantage.
There was no suggestion by the Home Office that reducing the level of work to some extent would inevitably not be a reasonable adjustment. Nor was it in dispute that the Home Office did not seek to reduce the volume of her work. In the circumstances, the employment tribunal held the Home Office was in breach of its section 20 duty under the Equality Act. The relevant provision, criterion or practice (PCP) was a requirement that Ms Kuranchie carried out the same volume of work as her colleagues. Not having a reduced workload involved Ms Kuranchie in working extra hours as a result of the effects of her disability.
The employment tribunal found the Home Office should have made the reasonable adjustment of reducing her workload in order to avoid the disadvantage.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the Respondent's appeal against the finding of disability discrimination. Even though Ms Kuranchie had been able to work compressed hours it was clear that these steps did not remove the disadvantage at which she was put. Thus the question here was whether the adjustment identified, reduced workload, was a reasonable adjustment. On the facts the employment tribunal was entitled to find that the "new" adjustment would have been reasonable and a failure to take that step amounted to a breach of the section 20(3) duty.
The case reminds us that it is the duty of the employer to make reasonable adjustments, even if adjustment requests are not forthcoming from an employee. The duty can arise where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage in three situations. First, as a result of an employer's PCP. Second, because of a physical feature of the employer's premises. Third, where an employer fails to provide an auxiliary aid. However, there will be no obligation on an employer to make reasonable adjustments unless it knows or ought reasonably to know that the individual in question is disabled and likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage because of their disability.
It is for an employment tribunal to objectively decide whether a particular adjustment would have been reasonable to make in the circumstances. It will consider matters such as whether the adjustment would have ameliorated the disabled person's disadvantage, the cost of the adjustment in light of the employer's financial resources, and the disruption the adjustment would have had on the employer's activities.