Employment Law case Update: Ali v Torrosian and others
Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination arising from a disability occurs where:
- A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability; and
- A cannot show that the treatment was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Dr Ali was employed as a GP by the Bedford Hill Family Practice. During the time he was employed, Dr Ali suffered a heart attack and went on long term sick leave. The heart attack resulted in an ongoing heart condition. Both parties agreed that this was a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
A medical report was commissioned, which stated that it was unlikely that Dr Ali would ever be able to return to work full-time. The report also advised that he could return on a phased, part-time basis.
Dr Ali then suffered a shoulder injury and was signed off work for a further six weeks. On his return, the practice dismissed Dr Ali on the basis that he was not capable to work.
Dr Ali brought claims to the Employment Tribunal (ET) in relation to unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. The ET found that the procedure used in relation to an unfair dismissal claim was unfair because the practice had failed to consider the possibility of Dr Ali returning to work on a part-time basis, and the unfair dismissal claim succeeded.
When examining the disability discrimination claim, the ET decided that although the dismissal amounted to unfair treatment arising from his disability, the dismissal was justified by the practice’s legitimate aim; ensuring that the best possible care was provided to patients. The disability discrimination claim was unsuccessful.
Dr Ali appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in relation to the disability discrimination claim, and succeeded. The EAT noted that although the ET had considered the impact of Dr Ali’s absence and how this would affect the continuity of patient care and running costs to the practice, it had failed to consider the possibility of Dr Ali returning to work on a part-time basis as a less serious way of the practice achieving its legitimate aim.
The ET had considered the part-time argument in relation to unfair dismissal, but had failed to consider it when deciding whether the means of achieving the legitimate aim were proportionate. The EAT therefore sent the disability discrimination aspect of the claim back to the ET, who are due to reconsider whether the means were proportionate.
It is important for employers to look at whether applying a reasonable adjustment could act as a less severe alternative to unfair dismissal, especially when deciding if disability discrimination is a means of achieving a legitimate aim.
This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 27/09/2018. If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.