In order to qualify as ‘disabled’ under the Equality Act 2010, an employee must have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and adverse long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. In Aderemi v London and South East Railway Ltd, the EAT overturned a Tribunal’s decision that standing for long periods at work could not amount to normal day-to-day activities for the purposes of this statutory definition.
Mr Aderemi was employed as a station assistant, a job which involved prolonged periods of standing. Following several periods of sick leave due to back problems, he was dismissed on capability grounds because his back pain prevented him from standing for long periods of time. He then brought a claim for disability discrimination. The Employment Tribunal concluded that Mr Aderemi’s back problem did not satisfy the statutory definition of a disability. Although he had a physical impairment, this did not have a substantial effect on his ability to carry out day-today activities. For example, he could still walk, sit, stand and do exercise for short periods. His claim was therefore rejected.
However, the EAT overturned this decision, saying that the Tribunal had adopted the wrong approach in focussing on what Mr Aderemi could do rather than what he could not do, since the legislation requires an analysis of ‘adverse effect’. It also appeared that the Tribunal might have thought incorrectly that activities at work cannot amount to ‘normal day-to-day activities’ when assessing disability. Standing for long periods at work is clearly a normal day-to-day activity. The case was remitted to a different tribunal for a re-hearing.