In the recent case of Salford NHS Primary Care Trust v Smith, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned a decision by the Employment Tribunal (ET) and held that “reasonable adjustments” does not include offering a disabled employee a career break or proposing rehabilitative work arrangements. These were identified as procedural steps rather than substantive steps as required by the Equality Act 2010.

Ms Smith, an occupational health therapist, was employed by the PCT. She suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. This condition caused her to go on long term sick leave and it was accepted that she was disabled under the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (which has now been superseded by the Equality Act 2010). Ms Smith stated that the PCT had failed to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate her eventual return to work.

The EAT maintained that the primary aim of reasonable adjustments should be to enable the employee to return to work. A career break or recommendations to Ms Smith’s general practitioner in respect of rehabilitative work arrangements would not have alleviated her inability to perform her full role, which included multi-tasking, dealing with clients and setting up the “emotional barriers” necessary to deal with her work.