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Briefing Note

Reasonable Adjustments for an Employee Associated with a Disabled Person

Previous case law has held that direct discrimination can occur when an employee is associated with a disabled person. The Court of Appeal decided whether associative discrimination could apply to the obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence | Court of Appeal | 2014

Background

Where a disabled employee is at a significant disadvantage compared to a non-disabled employee, an employer is under an obligation to consider making reasonable adjustments.

H was a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defence (‘the MOD’) and was based in Germany. H herself was not disabled but her daughter was.  H made a request for a compassionate transfer to the UK so her daughter’s education needs could be met. The request was refused and H brought a claim alleging the refusal amounted to a breach of the obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

The Decision

The Court of Appeal held that associative discrimination does not apply to the obligation to make reasonable adjustments. The UK and European law only benefits disabled employees or prospective employees.

In Practice

This is a useful decision for employers. It confirms that the obligation to make reasonable adjustments only applies to employees or prospective employees.  However, employers may still need to provide flexible working under the flexible working regulations.

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