Pause for thought: postponement of hearing would have been a reasonable adjustment

Hibbett v The Home Office is another case on the duty to make reasonable adjustments for an employee with a disability, a duty which arises where the employer applies a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ which puts the employee at a substantial disadvantage.

The claimant was accused of misconduct — submitting an expenses claim for the cost of relaxation therapy which her manager had already declined to approve. (At that point, she had consulted her GP about anxiety and poor sleep but was not at that stage suffering from a disability as defined for the purposes of disability discrimination.) Prior to the disciplinary hearing she was signed off with anxiety and work-related depression. The hearing was postponed once but went ahead on the re-scheduled date, regardless of the fact that the claimant had been referred to occupational health but had not yet been seen.

The tribunal found that the subsequent dismissal was unfair but that the failure to delay the disciplinary hearing was not a breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments because, on the evidence, the claimant had been able to cope with the proceedings; in other words, there had been no disadvantage to her arising from the fact that the hearing was not postponed…

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