Following the case of Buchanan v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, employers are required to consider employees’ individual circumstances when justifying the application of a procedure.

Mr Buchanan was a police officer on long-term sickness absence, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Mr Buchanan’s absence was managed under the ‘Unsatisfactory Performance Procedure’ (UPP) which consisted of a three stage process. As part of the process, Mr Buchanan was issued with written notices which required him to return to work by certain dates – these dates were not achievable due to his condition.

A disability discrimination claim was brought on the grounds that the application of the UPP process by the police could not be objectively justified.

The employment tribunal found there was no discrimination because the UPP procedure itself was justified. Conversely, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that it was the application of the UPP processes specifically towards Mr Buchanan that had to be objectively justified, not just the procedure generally.

When someone falls under the Equality Act, a rigid application of process might not be sufficient. Always take account of individual circumstances.