Could requiring a disabled employee to attend a redundancy selection interview amount to a substantial disadvantage under The Equality Act?

Yes, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in the recent case of Hilaire v Luton Borough Council.

The first tribunal had found that the relevant provision, criterion or practice (‘PCP’) applied by the Respondent was that of requiring the Claimant to attend an interview. The first tribunal then concluded that this PCP did not place him at a disadvantage as he could have engaged with the process if he had wanted to do so, but he chose not to attend as he believed managers were conspiring to dismiss him.

The EAT held that the first tribunal had applied the wrong test when considering disadvantage; it had approached the matter on a binary basis by considering whether the Claimant was capable of attending and not considering whether it was more difficult for the Claimant to attend because of his disability. From the tribunal’s findings, the Claimant had problems with memory and concentration and with social interaction. It was obvious that such problems would, at the least, hinder effective participation in the interview, when compared with persons who were not disabled.

However, in this case the EAT decided that the first tribunal had still been entitled to dismiss the claim on the basis that the PCP did not cause the disadvantage, as it was the Claimant’s loss of confidence in the Council that actually prevented him from attending the interview.

Nonetheless, this case really highlights the importance of employers always remembering that they must take extra care to ensure that disabled workers are not put at a disadvantage in the workplace.

Seek our further guidance for more detailed advice.