This article was published on October 13th, 2016
The duty to make reasonable adjustments can tie employers up in knots. What is reasonable in one case won’t necessarily be reasonable in another. It really comes down to how far the employer should go to combat the disadvantage that the employee has been put to at work because of their disability.
Mr Powell was disabled because of a back injury. His employer gave him a lesser role, but didn’t cut his pay. That arrangement lasted for nearly a year until the employer told Mr Powell that it would only continue to employ him in that role at a reduced rate of pay. Mr Powell didn’t agree to that and was dismissed.
Maintaining the original level pay was a reasonable adjustment in this case, said the tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). However, the EAT made it clear that it won’t always be reasonable to maintain a pre-existing pay level – it will come down to the circumstances, including the ongoing financial considerations. In this case, Mr Powell had been in the new role, paid at the old (higher) rate, for almost a year. He expected the arrangement to be long-term. That was all relevant to the reasonableness of withdrawing the benefit of higher pay. Notably, the discontent of other employees was not a good enough reason to reduce pay in these circumstances.