In a recent decision by the Supreme Court, a bus operator’s policy regarding the wheelchair space on its buses was held to be in breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. The court considered that it was not enough to instruct drivers simply to request non-wheelchair users to vacate the wheelchair space if it was required by a wheelchair user, and do nothing further if the request was rejected. Instead, some further step to pressurise the non-wheelchair user to vacate the space should have been considered.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments, as considered by the Supreme Court, was that set down in S.20 of the Equalities Act 2010, which applies to employers. However, there are differences which may limit the effect of the decision on employment cases. When considering what was “reasonable” the court felt the fact that the bus operator (First Group Plc) had little to no means to compel an uncooperative passenger to vacate the wheelchair space. By contrast, an employer generally has a much greater degree of control over its employees, and can compel them to comply with any reasonable adjustments it puts in place. In practice, this means that what can reasonably be expected of an employer will differ from what can reasonably be expected of a provider of public services.
If you would like further information on this article, or have any Employment Law queries, please contact Probert Legal Limited – solicitors based in Exeter covering Devon, Cornwall and the rest of UK.