Discrimination arising from disability and part-time working

10 September 2018

If an employee is treated unfavourably because of something arising out of their disability, the employer must objectively justify it.

Dr Ali was a GP who worked for the Bedford Family Practice. He went off sick after a heart attack. His ongoing condition was considered a disability under the Equality Act. Doctors confirmed that Dr Ali was unlikely to be able to work full-time but said he could work part-time. He was dismissed for capability reasons.

He brought unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability claims. The tribunal said he had been unfairly dismissed because the Practice had not considered a return to work part-time. However, it rejected his discrimination claim. The tribunal said his dismissal was unfavourable treatment but could be objectively justified by the Practice's legitimate aim of providing the best possible care to patients. Dr Ali appealed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with Dr Ali. The Practice had considered how Dr Ali's absence impacted patient care, operational and financial costs. However, they didn’t consider whether part-time working might be a better way of achieving its legitimate aim. The EAT sent the case back to the employment tribunal to consider the part-time working issue afresh. The tribunal will decide whether the employer's decision to dismiss was still proportionate. This is a reminder to employers to consider all possible reasonable adjustments for disabled workers, including part-time working. Failing to do so can affect the fairness of dismissals and result in discrimination claims.

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