Must an employer make reasonable adjustments for a non-disabled employee associated with a disabled person?

9th July 2014

From: Muckle LLP


An employee with a disability can require their employer to make 'reasonable adjustments' to help them overcome a substantial disadvantage which they experience before, during or after their employment.


The employer must take reasonable steps to identify where reasonable adjustments can be made to remove the disadvantage, provided such steps are not disproportionately burdensome on the employer.


The case of Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence explored whether there is a duty on an employer to make adjustments if the disabled person is associated with the employee.


Mrs Hainsworth made a request to transfer her job from Germany to the UK in order to better care for her disabled daughter. This request was rejected. Mrs Hainsworth brought a claim under the Equality Act 2010 that the MoD should have made the reasonable adjustment of allowing her to transfer.


The Court of Appeal held that employers are required to make provisions only for disabled employees and job applicants. European and domestic legislation offers protection against 'associative discrimination' but not an additional duty in terms of reasonable adjustments on the basis of association.


Thus an employee is unable to require their employer to make reasonable adjustments on the basis of their association with a disabled person. However, employers should be mindful of other avenues through which employees could pursue related issues such as indirect sex discrimination or flexible working requests.


Any questions resulting from this can be addressed to Tim Davies at Muckle LLP on or by calling 0191 211 7927.