10 October 2011 #Employment
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held in Cordell v Foreign & Commonwealth Office UKEAT/0016/11 that refusing to provide a deaf employee with English lipspeaker support was not a failure to make reasonable adjustments because the cost of providing such support was unreasonable.
The Claimant in this case had accepted a promotion to a role in Kazakhstan. Her employer had provided her with English lipspeaker support at her previous role in Poland but the costs in providing this support in her new role (around £230,000 a year) was substantially more and the employer decided to withdraw the job offer on this basis.
The EAT held that Tribunals should make a judgment on the basis of what they consider “right and just” when considering whether there has been a failure to make reasonable adjustments. The EAT went on to say that financial cost “is in truth one of the central considerations in the assessment of reasonableness... though of course requiring to be weighed with the other factors, including the degree of benefit to the employee if the accommodation is made.”
In this case, the cost to the employer in providing English lipspeaker support was unreasonable and the claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments failed. The case was decided under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which has now been replaced by the Equality Act 2010 however the same principles will still apply. Tribunals are increasingly allowing employers to take financial cost considerations as the sole factor for determining whether to make a reasonable adjustment. This case provides useful guidance to employers and ultimately the Tribunal will look at each case on its own merits to see what is right and just, rather than taking an objective approach.