Beware employer responsibility to make reasonable adjustments
A disabled worker whose employer failed to provide voice recognition software to ease pain that “left her in tears” has been awarded an overall sum of £45,000 by the Employment Tribunal.
The employee suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis and was forced to resign from her role because necessary adjustments were not made. The ET heard that she had repeatedly asked for a voice recognition service to be installed on her computer that would have reduced the amount of typing needed for her role. The software was eventually installed, but only after two years, during which the employee took multiple periods of sick leave because of the pain in her hands.
The Employment Judge ruled: “Given that a material and indeed very significant cause of the claimant’s resignation was her having been subjected to unlawful discrimination, not least in the prolonged failure to make reasonable adjustments, that dismissal must also be categorised as a further act of unlawful discrimination. At a return-to-work meeting following a period of protracted absence, it was clear that no steps had been taken to acquire voice recognition software and the employee began a phased return to work with regular breaks but at a grievance meeting held several months later, the employee confirmed that she felt a loss of trust in her employer due to their failure to provide the voice recognition software.
The ET ordered the employer to pay £12,421 for compensation for unfair dismissal and £14,385 loss of earnings arising out of unlawful discrimination. She was also granted £15,000 for injury to feelings arising out of unlawful discrimination, in particular the failure to make reasonable adjustments. With the addition of interest, the employee received a total award of £44,673.75.
Making reasonable adjustments is a legal duty when an employee has a disability and employers must take ownership for implementing the necessary adjustment.