06 June 2014 #Employment
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was asked to provide expert advice to the Court of Appeal in the case of Dr Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Dr Hainsworth worked for the MoD and was stationed in Germany. Her daughter suffers from Down’s Syndrome and, as her special educational needs could not be met in Germany, she requested a transfer to the UK. The request was refused and Dr Hainsworth brought a claim against the MoD for unlawful disability discrimination.
The claim was rejected by both the Employment Tribunal and the EAT. It was held that the duty to make reasonable adjustments is intended to accommodate the needs of disabled people in the workplace and that this duty is therefore only owed in respect of disabled employees and not disabled persons cared for by employees. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The EHRC was expected to advise the Court of Appeal that a failure by an employer to make changes to working arrangements could have an impact on a carer’s ability to continue work and on a disabled person’s ability to train, find or retain work. The EHRC was also expected to ask the Court to consider whether EU legislation obliges an employer to make reasonable adjustments where they are required to accommodate the needs of a disabled person who is cared for by the worker; and, if so, whether the Equality Act 2010 can be read to give effect to EU directives.
The decision is awaited and so the impact of the EHRC’s intervention remains to be seen…..however, it is worth noting that the EHRC previously supported the case of Coleman v Attridge Law, which agreed that Ms Coleman should be given protection even though the harassment she suffered at work was because of her disabled son rather than herself.