Reasonable adjustment to give disabled employee an undertaking in relation to severance pay


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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held in Hill v Lloyds Bank plc that it was a reasonable adjustment for an employer to give a disabled employee an undertaking to provide her with severance pay if she had to work in future with two colleagues who she alleged had bullied and harassed her.

The claimant had been employed by the Bank for over 30 years.  Between July 2016 and October 2017 she was on sick leave with stress which she alleged was caused by bullying and harassment at the hands of two colleagues.  On her return to work it was agreed that the claimant did not want to work for M and B (the two colleagues she had made the allegations against), and nor did they want to work with her.  The claimant wanted an undertaking that she would not be placed under the control of M or B again and, as an alternative if that ever happened, she would be offered severance pay, but the Bank refused to provide such an undertaking.

The EAT found that there was no reason why it could not be reasonable for the employer to give an undertaking to provide a disabled employee with certain benefits if, in future, certain circumstances arise.  Here the underlying purpose of an undertaking relating to the severance payment was to give a "backstop" to enable the claimant to work without fear, thereby enabling her to stay at work.

Take note: The decision in Hill shows that employers should take concerns raised by disabled employees seriously and then consider whether it is possible to accommodate their requests.  This case had unusual facts, and it's unlikely that such an undertaking will generally be required.  However, it does highlight the need to carefully consider reasonable adjustments before issuing a blank refusal.

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