Employer's operational needs relevant to reasonable adjustments

In Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police v Weaver the EAT has held that the operational objectives of an employer and the interests of other employees can be considered when deciding what amounts to a reasonable adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act 1998.

12th June 2008

In Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police v Weaver the EAT has held that the operational objectives of an employer and the interests of other employees can be considered when deciding what amounts to a reasonable adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act 1998.

Background
Mr Weaver was employed as a police officer by Lincolnshire Police. In 2000, because of his disability, he was placed on restricted duties and was not permitted to carry out any physically exerting tasks. The following year he successfully applied for a desk job investigating traffic offences. Although this role had not been specifically designated as a restricted post, it was suitable for him.

In 2006, Mr Weaver completed 30 years' service and at that point was entitled to retire on a full pension. He chose not to retire and instead applied to stay on under a Retention Scheme operated by the force, which sought to ensure that key skills and experience would not be lost through retirement. Officers retained under this scheme benefited financially by being able to retire and receive their full pension whilst continuing to work for the force. Mr Weaver's application was initially supported, however the policy in relation to the scheme was revised, partly because of its financial position. In considering the business case for Mr Weaver's application, the force took into account its wider operational capabilities and the impact on other employees. By not allowing him to have access to the scheme and encouraging him to retire, they would be freeing up an office-based job for another officer who had yet to complete 30 years' service and who, if no post could be found for them, would be medically retired. As a result of these wider considerations, Mr Weaver's application was rejected. He was however allowed to remain in the post under his existing terms and conditions, without being allowed to retire and receive his pension. He raised a claim that the force had failed to make reasonable adjustments by not placing him on the scheme.

The EAT overruled the employment tribunal's decision and held that the tribunal should consider not only the situation from the employee's point of view, but should also consider the wider operational objectives of the force when assessing whether he should have been placed on the scheme. The tribunal, in particular, should have considered the need to free up suitable posts for officers on restricted duties who were still in active service.

Impact on employers
Although this decision confirms that employers may take into account their own operational objectives in deciding what adjustments to make, decisions should be reasonable and should take into account all the circumstances.