The answer to this question is yes, as illustrated by the recent case of Mallon v AECOM Ltd. The Claimant in this case wanted to apply for a job with the Respondent. They used an online job application process which required the applicant to create a log in. The Claimant had dyspraxia and found this to be difficult. He emailed the Respondent with a copy of his CV and information regarding dyspraxia. He requested that due to his disability he be allowed to make an oral application instead.
The HR Manager began emailing the Claimant and asked him what he was struggling with in terms of the online application. The Claimant did not answer the question. The HR Manager ultimately advised that the Claimant complete the form but should reach out for assistance if he found any elements difficult.
The Claimant was not the chosen candidate for the job and he brought a tribunal claim against the Respondent. He claimed they failed to make reasonable adjustments to account for his disability. The Respondent argued that the Claimant had not sufficiently explained the difficulties he was having with the online application and therefore the duty to make reasonable adjustments was not applicable.
The claim was struck out because the tribunal concluded that the Claimant had no reasonable prospect of establishing that he needed an adjustment because his disability caused him difficulties in completing online applications. The Claimant appealed this decision.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) concluded that it could not be said that the claim had no reasonable prospect of success and the employment judge erred in striking out the claim.
The original judge had stated that the Claimant would not be at a disadvantage since there was no strict time frame or bar on seeking assistance in completing the online application form. The EAT disagreed with this analysis. A disabled person could still be at a disadvantage even if there was no time bar and pointed out that most people would wish to complete an application themselves without help from friends or family.
The case has been remitted to be dealt with by a different judge. The EAT also stressed that just because the claim has sufficient merit to proceed to a final hearing that does not mean that it will be ultimately successful.
It will be interesting to see how this case is decided. For employers it comes as a useful reminder that the duty to make reasonable adjustments cover applicants as well as employees and any requests must be carefully considered.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.