Employment Legal Update August 2019

Author:Hewitsons LLP
Profession:Hewitsons LLP

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Reasonable adjustments - when does the duty arise?

In the case of Meier v BT the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal (CA) had to consider whether an employer had sufficient knowledge of a job applicant's disabilities to trigger the employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process.

Mr Meier had Asperger syndrome, dyslexia and dyspraxia. He had a very high IQ and achieved a 2.1 degree in Computer Science. He applied to BT for a job under its graduate programme. The recruitment process involved several stages including an online application, a Situational Strengths Test (SST), a Skype interview, attendance at an assessment centre and an interview. As part of its commitment to actively attract and recruit disabled people, BT had a Guarantee Interview Scheme whereby BT guaranteed to interview anyone with a disability who satisfied their minimum requirements for the position.

Mr Meier completed the online application. On a separate 'diversity' form, Mr Meier confirmed that he was disabled and provided details of his conditions. This form was sent to a different, outsourced organisation and BT's recruitment team were not made aware of its contents, including the fact that Mr Meier suffered from a disability. Further, it was not BT's standard practice to provide such information to the recruitment team during the recruitment process.

Following receipt of the online application, Mr Meier was asked to complete the SST. He scored low and so Mr Meier was informed that his application would not progress. Mr Meier explained that the SST was not an appropriate mechanism to test someone with Asperger syndrome and asked BT to make reasonable adjustments so that he could progress to the next stage (i.e. effectively asking them to follow their Guarantee Interview Scheme). BT refused to do so, indicating that the SST formed part of the minimum requirements for the role and that Mr Meier had not come forward to suggest that the SST format should be adjusted to account for his disability. Mr Meier brought a claim for disability discrimination due to BT's failure to make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process to accommodate his disability.

The original Employment Tribunal (ET) held that that BT should have put procedures in place to ensure that relevant information given on the separate 'diversity' form was relayed to the recruitment team and so knew, or ought to have known, that Mr Meier was disabled and that his...

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