Home / Tribunal encourage retailer to introduce EDI training after it discriminated against a man with cerebral palsy – P Withers v Halfords Autocentres Ltd 
29th September 2023
Mr Withers was employed by Halfords as a MoT Tester (Grade 3) from 17 October 2019 until his resignation on 25 November 2021. Mr Withers has cerebral palsy, and his condition affects his left side, causes weakness in his legs and arm which affects his mobility and ability to lift heavy objects. In addition, Mr Withers had admitted during his interview that he had cerebral palsy and that he struggled with some activities, such as changing tyres. It was not disputed that his condition qualified as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
Four months into his job at Halfords, his condition deteriorated and he took a number of periods of sick leave. Further, as a result of the change in Mr Withers’ condition, the Respondent undertook a series of risk assessments with the view to put in place some reasonable adjustments to assist the Claimant in his work and mitigate the effects of his condition.
It was during the first risk assessment that it became clear that Mr Withers was using a crutch and that the only adjustments which had been implemented to mitigate his disability were ‘improvised’ and only used ‘sporadically’. In addition, Mr Withers had taken a stool from the tea-room to use at his MoT workstation and other measures, such as blocking out the diary for lunch breaks and the last slot of the day to ensure that Mr Withers had sufficient time to take breaks and complete his workload for the day, were rarely happening and with no degree of consistency. The risk assessment concluded that a more suitable chair was needed for Mr Withers rather than the improvised stool he was using at the time. It was also recommended that Halfords were to direct MoT customers to park in the designated MoT carpark as this would reduce the amount of walking Mr Withers would be required to do. This also was not implemented, and Mr Withers had to drive to and from the car park (on his own initiative) to collect the cars for testing.
Mr Withers was issued with a record of improvement in January 2021, which states that an effort was required to ensure that his attendance was 100% moving forward, which in turn would lessen the impact on colleagues having to cover his absence. It was also noted within the record of improvement that if there was a further absence incident, an absence meeting would be held to discuss further action. By 12 March 2021, Mr Withers still did not have the chair which had been recommended in the first risk assessment in November 2020. The recommended chair was eventually provided to Mr Withers on 7 May 2021.
A second risk assessment was conducted on 27 May 2021 in light of further issues Mr Withers was having.
An incident in relation to Mr Withers not noticing a wheel bolt was missing during an MoT test (which caused him to pass a vehicle that should have failed) led to him being suspended from work and invited to a disciplinary hearing. During the disciplinary hearing, Mr Withers explained he thought he may have failed to recognise the bolt was missing because he had received a call from his doctor in relation to cancer tests, which he said threw him off.
A third risk assessment was then conducted for Mr Withers, following a conversation he had with an employee relations officer where he advised he had contacted ACAS due to the feeling that he had been discriminated against because the risk assessments had not been followed. Mr Withers also raised a grievance in August 2021.
Resignation and claims
Mr Withers then resigned on 4 November 2021, with his last day of employment being 25 November 2021. It was Mr Withers case that the Respondent dealt with his sickness absence as a disciplinary matter and that there were repeated failures to implement the reasonable adjustments that had been identified during the course of the risk assessments.
Mr Withers brought the following claims:
The Tribunal held that there had been discriminatory acts over an 18 month period and that they could not be treated as isolated incidents. EJ Conley stated that there were discriminatory acts that were persistent despite repeated assurance to Mr Withers that they would be addressed; There had been a clear impact as a result of them not being implemented. EJ Conley stated that the Claimant had been resilient and had to ‘get by the best he could’ in light of Halford’s failures to put measures in place to support him.
Mr Withers was successful in relation to his claims of discrimination arising from disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments.
Specifically in relation to the claims arising from disability, the Tribunal considered that the following acts were unfavourable treatment:
Compensation and order
The Tribunal awarded £24,199.45 to Mr Withers for injury to feelings based on the following:
The Tribunal encouraged Halfords to implement its new equality, diversity and inclusion training to all staff as it was found that there was a ‘considerable’ demand for training and a greater need for training for ‘complacent’ managers.
Whilst this is only a first-tier Tribunal ruling, it reinforces the notion that employers are under a duty to ensure that they are making reasonable adjustments for employees where needed. It is important that employers are focused on what ‘reasonable steps’ they could take in order to assist a disabled individual perform the job role they have been employed to do.
It is important for employers to ensure that if they are to make reasonable adjustments for an employee, they do not unreasonably delay in doing so as an employment tribunal could be influenced by this conduct.
Employers should also provide training to all levels of staff on its policies, particularly any managers who are responsible for executing the policies.