The recent tribunal case of Schofield v Manchester Airport Group plc, considered the issue of disability discrimination where an employer imposes tests to ensure that staff are competent.
Mr Schofield was employed by the Airport as a Security Officer. He had dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia which, together, amounted to a disability. After Mr Schofield started employment, he (and other new recruits) had to sit, and pass, a written exam. He mentioned some of his difficulties to the trainer before the exam, and some accommodations were made for him. Mr Schofield did not pass. He was allowed to re-sit the exam the same day. The Airport made some adjustments for him at the re-sit. He was given unlimited time to complete the test; a large-print exam paper was supplied; and the invigilator read out some of the questions to him. Mr Schofield did not pass the re-sit either. As a result, he was dismissed. He brought a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments, and discrimination arising from disability.
The tribunal concluded that on this set of facts it was legitimate for the employer to impose a test given the importance to the public or securing and that the employer had made reasonable adjustments.
In relation to the claim for discrimination arising from disability, the Tribunal decided that Mr Schofield was treated unfavourably (by being dismissed) because he had failed the test, and his failure arose out of his disability. However, his dismissal was proportionate, as there was strong public interest in ensuring that security staff who worked at the Airport were trained and tested.
Points to note:
- What is a reasonable adjustment to make for a disabled person will depend on the facts, particularly how beneficial the adjustment will actually be in removing the disadvantage faced by the disabled person. In this case, the Tribunal’s view was that Mr Schofield’s misunderstanding of the questions was a factor in him not passing, despite the adjustments that were given.
- Other factors that will be taken into account in deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable include the cost of making the adjustment; its practicability; the type and size of the employer; and the employer’s financial and other resources. In this case, the Tribunal noted that the Airport was a large organisation which could be expected to devote considerable resources to making adjustments for disabled employees.
- Testing employees, for example by a written exam, is only likely to be justifiable where there is a direct link to the role. The Tribunal accepted that the Airport needed to demonstrate to the public and to the authorities that its Security Officers, including Mr Schofield, had been properly assessed.