Vacancy must be suitable for reasonable adjustment

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Mrs Maria Yorke v GlaxoSmithKline Services Unlimited 

An employer will be expected to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee where there is a provision, criterion or practice which places them at a disadvantage due to their disability. That may include transferring an employee to a different role which they might be able to better carry out given the impact of their disability. The issue in the case of Mrs Maria Yorke v GlaxoSmithKline Services Unlimited was whether the employer had breached that duty in failing to promote an employee.


Mrs Yorke had been dismissed from her job as a Mover following regular and extensive periods of absence due to rheumatoid arthritis. Following her dismissal she brought disability discrimination claims that included the employer had failed to make a reasonable adjustment in that she should have been given the supervisory role of First Line Leader which she alleged, being less physically demanding, would have prevented her eventual dismissal for medical incapability. 


It was held that it would not have been a reasonable adjustment to slot Mrs York into a role as a First Line Leader. It was on the facts not a suitable role for her. It was a more senior role and would have been a promotion. The fact that she would not have been considered for promotion in part due to her sickness absences did not lead to a finding that the employer had discriminated against her by not moving her to the role.  

Key takeaway point

Where a disabled employee is unable to carry their work duties consideration should be given to whether there is alternative work that would be suitable for the employee. If there is suitable alternative employment and moving the employee would remove the disadvantage caused by their disability in their current role it would be a reasonable adjustment to do so potentially without any selective interview process. This decision highlights the importance of first establishing that the alternative post is suitable.

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