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Employment Law case Update: Schofield v Manchester Airport

Nov 23, 2017

Mr Schofield, a security officer at Manchester Airport (MAG plc), was diagnosed with four learning difficulties: dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, classifying him as disabled under the Equality Act 2010.

Despite his disabilities, Mr Schofield had learned to read and write as an adult and went on to obtain undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in social sciences, even though he left school with no qualifications.  In July 2015, he began working for MAG plc as an aviation security officer.

Mr Schofield and other new recruits were tasked with low-risk duties such as tray filling while background checks were carried out. On completion of the background checks, Mr Schofield and 13 other recruits were enrolled on a 15 day induction course starting in November. The trainees were required to pass every element of the course, part of which would be assessed by a written exam preceded by a number of mock tests, with a pass mark of 80 per cent. The exam contained mainly multiple choice or one word/short answers. The process was not competitive and so it was possible for all the new recruits to succeed. The trainees were each given an A5-sized booklet in small print containing all the materials they’d need for the course

On the first day Mr Schofield told the trainer he had a number of learning difficulties, including dyslexia. Mr Schofield did not explain what his other conditions were but he told the trainer that he had two psychologist’s reports with further details. The trainer told Mr Schofield that he did not need to see the report and asked what support was needed. Mr Schofield explained that at university he’d been allowed additional time for exams and referred to an amanuensis (an assistant to take dictation).

All trainees wrote the exam together, with Mr Schofield being given as much time as he needed to complete the test. Mr Schofield did not pass the exam and his employment was terminated. Mr Schofield then brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal for failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination on grounds of disability. Mr Schofield claimed that MAG plc should have made more adjustments for him by allowing him more time to take the exam, and provide him with a person to read the questions and write down the answers for him.

The Tribunal found that the requirement for Mr Schofield to take the exam placed him at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who were not disabled. It considered that the MAG plc was a large organisation which would be expected to have sufficient resources to make adjustments for a disabled person.  However the Tribunal concluded sufficient adjustments had been made in the circumstances, therefore finding Mr Schofield’s claims unsuccessful.

The Tribunal also held that it was not reasonable for Mr Schofield to be given more time as he had already been given unlimited time. This case is a reminder for employers to review the reasons why tests are needed and what adjustments could be made for disabled employees/applicants.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 23/11/2017.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.