According to employment law specialists a recently passed ruling regarding discrimination against disibility could lead the way for a potential torrent of unfair dissmissal claims.
The ruling was passed in favour of a Scottish road sweeper who was dismissed due to a physical disability.
In light of the fact that the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995) will shortly apply to all employers, this ruling has come as a wake up call to all companies, especially SMEs, of the risks involved in ending workers’ contracts due to disability.
In the case of Mrs Archibald v Fife Council, Mrs Archibald became unable to walk and therefore unable to sweep roads. Fife Council decided her disability was such that they could not make any ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help her with her road sweeping duties, and so interviewed her for a more sedentary post. She was not successful; the Council appointed a more ‘qualified’ individual and subsequently dismissed Mrs Archibald.
Appealing on the grounds of being ‘disabled’ within the meaning of the DDA 1995, Mrs Archibald argued that her employer, Fife Council, had not made ‘reasonable adjustments’ to prevent her from being ‘disadvantaged in comparison with persons who were not disabled’. In this landmark case, the House of Lords found in favour of the employee.
Will Clayton, Partner of dent, raven + marsdens, explains: “The implications of this decision are potentially very far reaching. Employers seeking to terminate the employment of any member of staff who becomes disabled and consequently unable to perform their duties will need to act extremely carefully, especially if there are other roles vacant within the organisation that the employee might be able to fill. Otherwise they will face claims of discrimination and unfair dismissal before Employment Tribunals where the potential damages available to successful applicants will be unlimited.”
How will your company avoid being caught out by the Disability Discrimination Act? HR Zone would like to hear your views on this ruling.