The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 ("DDA") provides that an employer discriminates against a disabled person if, without justification, it fails to make reasonable adjustments to any:
· arrangements made by the employer; or
· any physical feature of the employer's premises
which place the disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to non-disabled persons.
In the case Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust v Cambridge (EAT/0755/02/ILB), the EAT decided that in order to comply with that duty, employers must not only make reasonable adjustments but also must conduct a proper assessment of what is required to eliminate the disadvantage suffered by the disabled person.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers could now be in breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments if they do not carry out an assessment even if, on the facts of the case, no reasonable adjustments were possible.
Employers should in all cases conduct an assessment of whether reasonable adjustments are possible including an assessment of:
· the employee's condition and prognosis;
· the effect of the employee's disability on him and his ability to perform his duties;
· the effect of the employer’s arrangements/physical features of the work place on the employee and his ability to perform his duties; and
· the steps which might be taken to reduce or remove the disadvantages to which he was subjected.
It is important that the assessment is properly documented so that it can provide evidence that adjustments were considered should this be necessary.