Reasonable Adjustments Duty Only Applies Where Employee Himself is Disabled

2 mins

Posted on 10 Jul 2014

An employer is not obliged to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee who, for example, has a disabled husband or child. The duty only applies where the employee himself is disabled. 

In Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence, H was employed in a teaching role in Germany. She asked to be transferred to the UK in order to accommodate the needs of her daughter who has Down’s Syndrome. Her employer refused and she claimed that this was a breach of the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the Employment Tribunal’s decision that the duty to make reasonable adjustments did not apply. It only applied if H herself was disabled. It does not apply where a non-disabled employee is in some way associated with a disabled person.

Although a failure to make adjustments for a non-disabled employee does not give rise to a reasonable adjustments claim for disability discrimination, employees can request flexible working arrangements and employers must consider such requests in a reasonable manner. They also need to be alert to the risk of a discrimination claim when considering and deciding on requests. 

Discrimination against an employee who has an association with a disabled person is only unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 if it amounts to direct discrimination – i.e. if they are treated less favourably because, for example, their husband or child is disabled.

Doyle Clayton are specialist in workplace discrimination issues and can assist both employer and employees.  If you would like advice on a discrimination issue, please contact you usual Doyle Clayton adviser or email

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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