Is it possible to have a situation when no reasonable adjustments can be made for a disabled person?

Yes, but only rarely, held the Appeal Tribunal in the recent case of Dyer v. London Ambulance NHS Trust.

Background

Mrs Dyer, after working 7 years for the NHS Trust, developed a severe reaction to aerosol body spray. This had resulted in a near-death experience requiring hospitalisation for 4 days. Since then (2009) she had not returned to work.

Mrs Dyer claimed that, as her condition amounted to a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, the NHS Trust was obliged to make reasonable adjustments so that she could return to work. It is the ‘provision criterion or practice’ put in place by the employer that needs to be reasonably adjusted. In this case, the PCP Mrs Dyer claimed was in place, was the practice of allowing people to spray cosmetic products in working areas, and, potentially, that the mere wearing of perfume in the workplace may cause an adverse reaction. Could reasonable adjustments be made to this?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the Employment Tribunal, who found that it was not reasonable or practicable for the NHS Trust to enforce an aerosol and perfume free workplace. Although it might be possible to have such a policy, and in a small place it may be possible to enforce it, this was not the case in this particular (large) workplace. It was significant that the possible consequences were fatal if someone didn’t observe a ban, even if this was by mistake.

Furthermore, the EAT found that the employer had been perfectly justified and fair in dismissing Mrs Dyer for her disability, as there was nothing they could reasonably do to accommodate it.

Implications

This is a very extreme and very rare example of a situation where no reasonable adjustment could be made. In essence, this is because the condition was so life threatening.

On the other hand, the EAT did leave open the possibility that some employers might be able to make drastic adjustments in situations such as these, so each case should be taken on its own facts.

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