Did the tribunal err in its findings in relation to the Respondent’s knowledge of disability and assessment of the date on which the duty to make reasonable adjustments arose?

No, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in the recent case of Preston v E.on Energy Solutions Ltd.

The Claimant was employed by the Respondent as a Complaints Manager. It was accepted that the Claimant was a disabled person by reason of Primary Reading Epilepsy. The first employment tribunal found this gave rise to a substantial disadvantage because of the increased risk of suffering seizures when reading. However, it concluded that the Respondent had not known, nor could reasonably have known of this until after the Claimant went off sick due to an unrelated stress condition. It, therefore, held that no duty to make reasonable adjustments arose before the Respondent put adjustments in place.

The first tribunal further found the Claimant had been dismissed because of his conduct when refusing to engage with the measures put in place to secure his return to work and concluded this was justified for efficient absence management.

The EAT dismissed the Claimant’s appeal.

In so doing it found the first tribunal had correctly concluded that there was nothing disclosed by the Claimant which could mean the Respondent knew or ought reasonably to have known of the substantial disadvantage suffered by the Claimant before he went on sick leave. They also were entitled to find the Claimant’s stress and therefore his sickness absence was unrelated to his disability and that his summary dismissal was a proportionate means of achieving the Respondent’s legitimate aim given the Claimant’s continued refusal to respond to reasonable managerial requests in circumstances where Occupational Health advised that he was fit to return to work and all the reasonable adjustments had been made to enable him to do so.