Reasonable adjustments and disability-related sickness absence

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Mrs Whiteley (the claimant) commenced employment with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on 23 October 1978 and was still employed when this case was heard. She suffers from asthma and, over the course of around five-and-a-half years from January 2005 until September 2010, she was absent from work for a total of 54 days due to sickness. All but 13 of these days were due to acute upper respiratory tract infections.

HMRC had a policy of ‘subjecting to consideration’ absences of more than 10 days due to ill health in a rolling year. This meant than an employee whose absences exceeded 10 days could be subjected to disciplinary processes, beginning with warnings and leading eventually and in due course to potential dismissal.

In 2010, the claimant had been absent from work for 15 days up to and including 15 October 2010; one day was due to a condition that was nothing to do with upper respiratory tract infection and 14 days were due to viral infections and a chest infection…

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