• The Court of Appeal has confirmed that neither EU nor UK law impose on an employer a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disablity to accommodate an employee’s need to care for a disabled dependent. The duty is owed only to disabled employees, not employees who are associated with someone with a disability. (Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence)  

This ruling is relevant to requests to work flexibly. Of course employers receiving such requests need to avoid direct discrimination on grounds of association with a disabled person, and indeed other forms of direct discrimination. In some circumstances refusal might amount to indirect sex discrimination, and there will also be employee relations considerations. Our briefing on the new flexible work regime discusses these issues (see above).

  • The EAT has ruled that employers are not under any duty to disabled employees to make reasonable adjustments by modifying trigger periods for warnings under a sickness absence policy. (Griffiths v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) Although this decision is helpful to employers, it should be treated with caution as it conflicts with another EAT ruling (HMRC v Whiteley). The EAT here appeared to conclude that there was no disadvantage because the policy was applied equally to non-disabled employees, failing to recognise the disadvantage arising from the higher level of absence associated with disability.