The claimant in Wade v Sheffield Hallam University, who was disabled by an allergic condition, complained that in a restructuring she should not have been put through a competitive interview which was to her disadvantage.

Changes to various roles in the University, including the claimant's post in the library, had been proposed and the claimant was interviewed for a vacancy.  The University found that she did not meet two essential criteria.  The post became vacant again two years later, by which time she had been told that the job she had been doing no longer existed and that, as a result, she would be given priority for the alternative post but she would be required to undergo a competitive interview process.  She was not successful in her application and the University concluded that she was "not appointable".

The Employment Tribunal that found that the competitive interview process did constitute a "provision, criterion or practice" which put the claimant at a disadvantage but decided it would not have been reasonable for the employer to waive the interview requirements, since this would have meant appointing someone whom they did not believe to be suitable.

The EAT upheld this decision.  Although the House of Lords' case of Archibald v Fife Council in 2004 had held that the duty to make reasonable adjustments might require an employer to appoint an employee to an alternative post even if that employee is not the best candidate, nevertheless the question of whether an adjustment is reasonable depends on the circumstances of the particular case.  In this situation, it could not be described as "reasonable" for the employer to have to appoint someone whom it did not consider to be suitable.

Although the reasonable adjustments duty can often require employers to make changes to selection procedures (we mentioned a couple of months ago a case where the EAT found that it was reasonable to make an exception to a redeployment policy to allow a claimant to apply for a wider range of posts on a restructuring), when it comes to the actual appointment, employers may be able to insist that essential competencies for the new role are met.