A woman who claimed that her employer had not made reasonable adjustments to cater for her disability has achieved a significant victory in her quest for a dedicated parking space at work (Linsley v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs).
The woman suffered from ulcerative colitis, which can be aggravated by stress and can lead to a sudden, unpredictable and urgent need for a bowel movement. She felt particular stress if unable to find a space in her employer’s staff car park and a number of occupational health assessments had recommended that she be allocated a dedicated parking bay.
The employer had a policy that members of staff who were disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 would have their parking needs prioritised and there was no dispute that the woman fell into that category. She was, however, refused a dedicated parking space on the mistaken basis that they were only available to blue badge holders.
She was informed that she could make free use of an essential user parking bay close to the building where she worked. However, that space was not always available and the adjustment fell short of providing her with a space that she alone could use. It also did not guarantee that the stress she suffered on searching for a space would be alleviated. Her complaint that no reasonable adjustment had been made was nevertheless rejected by an Employment Tribunal (ET).
In upholding her challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) noted that the employer had clearly breached its own policy of providing priority parking for disabled employees, whether or not they were blue badge holders. The ET’s finding that that policy was discretionary, rather than binding, tended to diminish its importance and involved an error of law.
The ET also failed to focus on the particular disadvantage suffered by the woman – that being the stress involved in having to hunt for a parking space. By reason of the occupational health assessments, the employer was aware of that problem and also that she was seeking a dedicated parking space.
The matter was remitted to the same ET for reconsideration in the light of the EAT’s ruling.
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