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Career break is not a reasonable adjustment

14 September 2011 #Employment

Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to mitigate the impact a provision, criterion or practice has on a disabled employee. 

In Salford NHS Primary Care Trust v Smith (2011) the EAT has held that it was not reasonable to require an employer to offer an employee on long term sick leave a career break or light duties that would not help her return to work. 

Mrs Smith had been signed off on long term sick leave suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.  A year after she was signed off, the Trust’s occupational health adviser recommended that she be offered a phased return to work involving `light duties` or a `career break` to allow her the necessary time to recover. Following a couple of meetings that she failed to turn up to, the Trust wrote to her setting out attempts it had made to find her a suitable role giving reasons why the posts had been unsuitable.

On receipt of this letter, Mrs Smith resigned claiming to have lost confidence in the Trust.  She brought a claim arguing that the Trust had failed to make reasonable adjustments.

The EAT held that a career break would not have been a reasonable adjustment.  Rather, it would put Mrs Smith at a disadvantage as it was to be unpaid, whereas the employee was in receipt of sick pay at the rate of half pay.  It could also have prejudiced her future chances of taking ill-health retirement.  Moreover, the “light duties” would not help her return to work as they did not reflect her typical workload.  As such there had been no failure on the part of the Trust to make reasonable adjustments.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
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