A recent case highlights the duty imposed on employers by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a disabled employee is not disadvantaged because of working practices or the physical features of the workplace can include a duty to provide alternative employment.
Around 14 per cent of the UK working population now do shift work and this can have an adverse effect on employees’ health as well as having associated safety risks.
In the case in point, the Employment Tribunal (ET) found that a worker who became depressed after working night shifts for a car part manufacturer in Washington, County Durham, was discriminated against by his employer.
Craig Routledge had worked for 12 years for TRW Systems. Sleep deprivation brought on by working alternate day and night shifts caused him to become depressed and he was registered as disabled. His doctor advised him that he needed to take time off work to allow his sleep pattern to return to normal and that he should not return to working night shifts until he had made a full recovery.
The ET found that TRW Systems had indirectly discriminated against Mr Routledge by reason of his disability by not giving him assurances that it would provide him with a full-time day job because he was too ill to continue working night shifts. In addition, his employers had discriminated against him on the grounds of his disability by not offering to make adjustments in order to enable him to return to work.
The ET will decide on the level of compensation payable at a separate hearing.