An employment tribunal has made an award of £1,000 against Marks and Spencer after a delay in providing a disabled shop worker with a £3 lift key to allow him to reach the toilets more easily.

In Mitchell v Marks and Spencer plc, the employment tribunal held that the employer breached its duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.

Due to a health condition Mr Mitchell required an operation.  His condition was classed as a disability under the Equality Act.  Both before and after the operation Mr Mitchell anticipated that he would require frequent trips to the toilet on the second-floor and would need access to a customer lift through the use of a key.

Without the key to the customer lift, Mr Mitchell had to access the second-floor staff toilets using the goods lift, the stairs, or a combination of the escalator and the stairs.

Mr Mitchell raised this issue with various managers before his operation.  After his operation he again raised his request and was finally issued with a key to the customer lift 10 days after his operation.

Mr Mitchell claimed disability discrimination in the employment tribunal, which upheld his claim by a majority.  His claim was successful as the tribunal accepted that using the customer lift rather than the goods lift did make a difference for Mr Mitchell, in terms of “speed, reliability and convenience”.

The tribunal awarded £1,000 to Mr Mitchell for injury to feelings.

The tribunal was of the opinion that there could be little excuse or explanation for failing to provide Mr Mitchell with a key for 10 days when there were keys available and when the cost of cutting a further key was agreed to be just £3.

This case highlights the importance of avoiding delays when making reasonable adjustments in cases of disability especially when those adjustments are simple and easily made.

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.  These adjustments depend on the condition and the individual, they might include:

  • changing the recruitment process so a candidate can be considered for a job
  • doing things another way, such as allowing someone with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking
  • making physical changes to the workplace, like installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or an audio-visual fire alarm for a deaf person
  • letting a disabled person work somewhere else, such as on the ground floor for a wheelchair user
  • changing their equipment, for instance providing a special keyboard if they have arthritis
  • allowing employees who become disabled to make a phased return to work, including flexible hours or part-time working
  • offering employees training opportunities, recreation and refreshment facilities

For further advice and support on disability in the work place and making reasonable adjustments contact us at Solve.