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Clarifying Reasonable Adjustments: The Significance of Trial Periods in Employment Law

 

Summary: The case of Rentokil Initial UK Ltd v Mr M Miller [2024] EAT 37 confirms trial periods as reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, ensuring fair consideration of alternative roles under the Equality Act 2010.

 

In the case of Miller, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) clarified that implementing a trial period can serve as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. This ruling overturned previous doubts expressed by the EAT earlier in Environment Agency v Rowan.

 

The case centred on a disabled employee, the Claimant, who could no longer fulfil his role as a field-based pest controller due to being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His disability hindered his ability to work effectively at heights and at pace.

 

Upon learning of the Claimant’s condition, the Respondent suggested alternative positions within the company. The Claimant applied for an administrator role but was subsequently dismissed following an unsuccessful interview. He argued that the failure to offer him the administrator position on a trial basis constituted a failure to make reasonable adjustments as required by law.

 

The tribunal ruled in favour of the Claimant, a decision upheld by the EAT on appeal. It was deemed that the Claimant’s disability placed him at a significant disadvantage in his current role, necessitating consideration for alternative employment to avoid dismissal. The proposed administrator role was deemed suitable, shifting the burden to the Respondent to demonstrate that offering the role, even on a trial basis, was unreasonable.

 

This judgment underscores the obligation of employers to diligently consider redeployment options, particularly when an employee’s disability prevents them from performing their current role. Even if only on a trial basis, exploring alternative positions can fulfil the legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments, thereby promoting inclusivity and fairness in the workplace.

 

The judgement can be found here:   https://www.gov.uk/employment-appeal-tribunal-decisions/rentokil-initial-uk-ltd-v-mr-m-miller-2024-eat-37

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Legal NewsClarifying Reasonable Adjustments: The Significance of Trial Periods in Employment Law