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Reasonable adjustments in the recruitment process

16 November 2023

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently upheld a tribunal’s finding that a recruitment process solely relying on an online application put a job applicant with dyspraxia at a substantial disadvantage.

In AECOM Limited v Mallon, Mr Mallon applied for a position with AECOM and requested that the required online application be supplemented in his case by a telephone interview as a reasonable adjustment to accommodate his disability. He did not disclose any further details about his disability, merely confirming that he had difficulties with the online application. His request was refused and, consequently, he brought a claim against AECOM for failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Both the employment tribunal and the EAT sided with the claimant and held that AECOM had constructive knowledge of his disability and, therefore, had a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments. Although it was acknowledged that AECOM did not know the details of Mr Mallon’s disability and the difficulties he experienced with the online application, they failed to make reasonable inquiries about its nature. If AECOM had wanted further details, they ought to have asked Mr Mallon for them over the phone when he failed to explain the situation further in the emails.

According to the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), when a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter compared to people who are not disabled, the employer has a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid such a disadvantage. However, this duty is only triggered if the employer has constructive knowledge of the disability, meaning that the employer knows – or could reasonably have been expected to know – that the person has a disability.

What should you do?

This case serves as a timely reminder to employers to be vigilant when considering the duty to make reasonable adjustments. When there is an indication that a person may have a disability, they should conduct detailed inquiries to establish whether a duty to make such adjustments has arisen. Employers should also be aware that their obligation not to discriminate applies to both their employees and job applicants.

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Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
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Hayley Ainsworth BA, MSc
Senior associate, solicitor
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