The Equality Act 2010 requires that reasonable adjustments must be made for job candidates who are disabled to avoid any disadvantage they subject to during the recruitment process. Regrettably, this statutory requirement isn’t always adhered to – even by large public sector employees.

 

A  recent example involves  an autistic man, Mr. Chris Tyerman, who is set to receive £20,000 in compensation from NHS Digital. His experience sheds light on the need to make reasonable adjustments  during the recruitment process.

 

Mr. Tyerman applied for a cybersecurity position in August 2021 and, due to his communication difficulties, requested adjustments such as reviewing interview questions in advance and avoiding open-ended questions. Unfortunately, these requests were denied by NHS Digital, which cited the principle of treating all applicants equally. This manifest a misunderstanding of what the Equality Act 2010 actually says in s13(3):

 

(3)If the protected characteristic is disability, and B is not a disabled person, A does not discriminate against B only because A treats or would treat disabled persons more favourably than A treats B.

 

This decision was later deemed a breach of the Equality Act 2010 , leading Mr. Tyerman to decline the interview, believing the organisation wasn’t genuinely committed to providing the necessary adjustments.

 

In October 2021, Mr. Tyerman reapplied for another position but encountered similar issues during a telephone interview. When he sought feedback on his unsuccessful application, he was told that his responses to open-ended questions were insufficient. Subsequently, Mr. Tyerman made a claim of disability discrimination, as well as well as violations of the NHS Constitution for England and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

After a 16-month legal battle and a conciliation process led by ACAS, NHS England offered Mr. Tyerman a £20,000 settlement as compensation for injury to feelings, albeit without admitting liability. Additionally, they agreed to consider Mr. Tyerman’s feedback to enhance their approach to reasonable adjustments for disabled staff and job applicants.

 

Mr. Tyerman welcomed the settlement and expressed hope that it would encourage a more positive approach to recruiting neurodiverse individuals. NHS England reaffirmed its commitment to providing reasonable adjustments for candidates and staff who are disabled, using feedback to improve policies. However, recent figures have indicated a decrease in disabled staff reporting that they have all the reasonable adjustments they need.

 

More information about NHS England and the experience of disabled staff can be found here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/long-read/workforce-disability-equality-standard-2022-data-analysis-report-for-nhs-trusts-and-foundation-trusts/

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