In Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence (2014) EWCA Civ 763, the Court of Appeal considered whether the MOD had been obliged to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 for an employee whose daughter has Down’s syndrome.
The Court of Appeal has held that an employer had no duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for a non-disabled employee whose daughter has Down’s syndrome. On the wording of the Act, the reasonable adjustment duty only applies where an employee or job applicant is disabled. It does not oblige employees to make adjustments for a non-disabled employee who is in some way associated with a disabled person.
The Equal Treatment Framework Directive, which the Equality Act implements, also does not require adjustments to be made for non-disabled people.
Ms Hainsworth was employed by the Ministry of Defence, based in Germany. Her daughter, Charlotte, has Down’s syndrome. The MOD provided facilities to educate children of employees who worked outside the UK, but these were not designed for children with “significant needs”. It followed that Charlotte could not be schooled in the garrison where Ms Hainsworth worked.
In 2011, Ms Hainsworth requested a transfer to the UK to help her meet her daughter’s needs. The MOD rejected the request, and Ms Hainsworth brought a claim under the Equality Act that the MOD should have made the reasonable adjustment of transferring her to the UK owing to her daughter’s disability.
The tribunal rejected Ms Hainsworth’s claim. It held that the Equality Act 2010 only requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments for an employee or job applicant who is disabled.
Ms Hainsworth appealed to the Court of Appeal and the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened.
Previous case law, Coleman v Attridge Law had held that claims of associative discrimination can apply to direct discrimination claims. However, in Hainsworth, the Court of Appeal held that the wording of the Equality Act 2010 and Article 5 of the Equal Treatment Framework Directive only applies to reasonable adjustments for the assistance of disabled employees, prospective employees and trainees. The Court of Appeal rejected her appeal.
Clare McDairmant, Marketing Manager, Just Employment Ltd.