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Reasonable adjustments: bus company's wheelchair policy did not discriminate

06 January 2015 #Employment


Although not an employment case, the case brought against the bus company, FirstGroup, and reported this week has raised some interesting issues on what is a reasonable adjustment. The question was whether it was a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010 to require a bus company to have a policy requiring non-wheelchair using passengers to move if occupying a space required by a wheelchair user?

The Court of Appeal in FirstGroup PLC v Paulley found that it was not a reasonable adjustment to have to apply such a policy. Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, was unable to take a bus due to a passenger keeping a child's buggy in the wheelchair space. Mr Paulley argued for a reasonable adjustment changing the bus company's policy requesting passengers to move from the wheelchair space, to one requiring passengers to move when necessary.

The Court noted that an absolute policy would be "unworkable in practical terms", there was no power in law for bus companies to enforce such a policy, it would not be a 'reasonable adjustment'. However, Arden LJ noted that bus companies "must take all reasonable steps short of compelling passengers to move from the wheelchair space".

The Court split on what had put Mr Paulley at a disadvantage. The majority held it was the provision, criterion or practice 'PCP' applied by the bus company of a policy of giving priority to wheelchair users for wheelchair space, but that space was filled on a 'first come first served' basis.

Lewison LJ in the minority regarded Mr Paulley as being put at a disadvantage not by the PCP, but by the design of the bus with one wheelchair space, and regulations which prohibited a wheelchair from being carried other than in the designated space.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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