The EAT has confirmed that, in deciding whether a proposed adjustment for a disabled employee is reasonable, the tribunal should not only consider factors relating to the individual concerned, but may take account of wider implications, such as its effect on the workforce and the future precedent it sets.
Facts: Mr Weaver was a police officer with over 30 years service. In 2002 he developed health problems and was placed on restricted duties. He was later diagnosed as suffering from hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy which affected his mobility.
Given his disability, Mr Weaver accepted a role in the Central Ticket Office to investigate offences relating to road safety speed cameras. He held that post at the time of the Tribunal hearing, and accepted that, although not specifically identified for officers on restricted duties, the post was ideally suited for such officers.
In 2006, Mr Weaver completed thirty years service enabling him to retire on a full pension. Police officers may, however, choose not to retire at this point and remain employed until the force’s ordinary retirement age. They would then, however, have to make pension contributions, and forfeit the full benefit of those contributions by way of additional reckonable years’ service. Because of this, most officers, understandably choose to retire upon 30 years service.
As a result, the Home Office introduced the “Thirty + Retention Scheme” in 2002, permitting officers, who can show a business case for doing so, to retire on achieving full pensionable service, take their lump sum pension benefit immediately, and then be re-employed immediately thereafter.
Mr Weaver chose to retire and join the Thirty + Retention Scheme. His business case was, however, rejected because he occupied a post which was appropriate to be undertaken by officers on restricted duties still within their pensionable service. He brought a claim for a failure to make reasonable adjustments.
The Tribunal found that Lincolnshire Police should have allowed Mr Weaver access to the scheme because it could afford to do so and that he had continued in the post in any event. Lincolnshire Police appealed.
The EAT upheld the appeal, finding that the Tribunal had erred in focusing solely on Mr Weaver’s position and failing to engage with the wider objectives of the Lincolnshire Police. The Tribunal was obliged to have regard to all the circumstances, including the benefits to Lincolnshire Police in keeping posts available for officers placed on restricted duties, the precedent the adjustment would set for other cases, and the purpose of the Thirty + Scheme which was to ensure that the Police Force retained the particular skills, experience and knowledge of those retiring officers carrying out full duties.
This is helpful guidance for employers as Tribunals must also consider the implications that reasonable adjustments have on employers as well as the individual concerned.