Ms Hill was disabled, suffering from reactive depression, which she said resulted from bullying and harassment at work. On her return to work after a period of sick leave she sought an undertaking from Lloyds Bank that they would not require her to work with the two colleagues concerned and if at a later stage there was no alternative, she would be offered a severance package equivalent to that provided on redundancy. The Bank refused to give an undertaking to that effect.
Ms Hill brought a claim for disability discrimination on the basis of failure to make reasonable adjustments, which was allowed by an employment tribunal. The Bank appealed.
The EAT decided that her disability discrimination claim should succeed because the Bank had a “practice” of not giving firm undertakings in circumstances like these and that practice put Ms Hill at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with others not suffering a disability. This was because, without that undertaking, she suffered a level of anxiety and fear about the possibility she would be required to work with those colleagues that a non-disabled person who had been bullied and harassed would not have. The EAT said that having the undertaking would have removed the disadvantage because it would have alleviated that fear – and it would have been reasonable for the Bank to give the undertaking requested.
This case may be of concern to employers in relation to the adjustments that may be considered reasonable in reducing a substantial disadvantage to disabled employees who have brought grievances and are uncomfortable working with certain colleagues following a breakdown in relations.
The EAT noted that an undertaking such as this one may well be required as a reasonable adjustment rarely, but more generally that taking some more informal steps to assuage an employee’s reasonable concerns at an early stage might prevent a request escalating. Hill_v_Lloyds_Bank_Plc
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