Reasonable adjustments did no stretch to maintaining salary

The recent case of Aleem v E-ACT Academy Trust involved a science teacher who, as a result of poor mental health was unable to continue in her teaching role. The claimant’s mental ill health amounted to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and she had significant periods of sickness absence.

Following a return to work the teacher was provided with an alternative role of a “cover supervisor” which she accepted on the basis that she was not sufficiently fit to return to her substantive role as a teacher. However she raised a tribunal claim because, following a successful probationary period, her teacher’s salary was reduced to the salary for the role she was now fulfilling.  She claimed that a “reasonable adjustment” would be for her to be paid equally for the lesser role. The employment tribunal dismissed the claim that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments by not paying the higher teachers’ rate. It was held that it was not reasonable to expect the employer to continue to pay the teachers’ rate by way of an adjustment, once the probationary period had concluded.

It was felt that the employment tribunal appropriately taken into account the significant additional cost should the teachers’ rate be paid indefinitely. This case serves as a useful reminder that the principle behind making reasonable adjustments is to help support employees to return to work.

In a previous case regarding sick pay, the Court of Appeal confirmed that it would rarely be reasonable to pay enhanced sick pay to a disabled employee over a non-disabled employee and that disabled people must not be treated as ‘objects of charity’.

The concept of the duty to make reasonable adjustments has been subject to much case law.

It is important to note that the employer must not pass the cost of the adjustment on to the disabled employee. It is for the employer to bear the cost. Employers must also ensure that the appropriate line managers are made fully aware of the adjustments being made.

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