Swansea solicitor explains why employers can’t ignore

requests for reasonable adjustments
Swansea Solicitor , Simon Thomas of Hutchinson Thomas, specialises in Employment Law
Tribunals.  Here he discusses a recent case concerning reasonable adjustments for disabled
Employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to
accommodate a worker with a disability or an illness that constitutes a disability.
One thing my years working as a Swansea solicitor has taught me: disability discrimination
claims don’t present an employer in a good light – they are bad for both morale and PR, and
the employer has usually lost a good employee in the process.
Budget airline Ryanair discovered this first-hand when the employment tribunal unanimously
ruled that they repeatedly discriminated against a flight attendant.
Margita Dworak had worked for Ryanair from 2004 as senior flight attendant until she
resigned in August 2018, and had an unblemished record with the company.
In 2017 the claimant suffered a seizure and was admitted to hospital in Poland, advising
Ryanair on 10 July that she would be absent for the following week.  On 13 July, Ms.
Dworak was diagnosed with a benign neoplasm – a non-cancerous brain tumour - and
submitted sick notes throughout July and August without divulging the full details.
On 28 September, a Ryanair HR officer called her, and she disclosed her diagnosis. On 2
October, Dworak was admitted to hospital again and her brother provided the employer with
the original hospital discharge summary and a consultation note from a neurologist. At this
point, the Tribunal considered that Ryanair had factual knowledge of Dworak’s disability
caused by her brain tumour.
On 25 October. Dworak was declared fit for work (but not to fly) and asked for a phased
return to work with amended ground-only duties, however as Dworak was not medically
certified as fit to fly, Ryanair refused to allow her return.
Dworak attended an in-person meeting on 1 November and again asked to return to work on
ground-only duties. A statement of fitness to work from her British GP also recommended a
phased return to work, altered hours and amended duties, but Ryanair refused to allow her
Between 14 November and 29 December, Dworak wrote three times to Ryanair, reiterating
her wish and fitness to return to ground-only work, but was advised that while a base
supervisor role was available at Stansted, she would have to fly and could not do this job.  
Ryanair later advised by phone that there were no ground duties available at Stansted but
advised her she was “free to check” the careers section on the Ryanair website, and told
Dworak her occupational sickness benefit and statutory sick pay would be ending soon.

On 5 Jan, Dworak alerted Ryanair to an advertisement for an office support operative, which
she highlighted could amount to suitable alternative employment, and accordingly reported
for work on 6 and 8 January. She was told twice to return home as there was “no work
available” for her.
Ryanair advised on 11 January that it was “unreasonable” to expect Ryanair to “create a
ground-based job where one simply does not exist”. She was also told to ‘apply for the cash
office support role through the application form’ as the job could not be allocated.
Dworak lodged a grievance the following day, receiving no response, so resubmitted her
grievance on 10 February stating Ryanair had breached the Equality Act by failing to carry
out a risk assessment, make reasonable adjustments or consider her for other roles for her
within the business.
The tribunal found the grievance outcome, which was sent to Dworak on 11 April, ignored
the complaints that Ryanair had failed to recognise she had a disability and was thereby
protected by equality legislation.  Dworak eventually found a role in a different business and
resigned from Ryanair.
As a Swansea solicitor, I often advise our corporate clients on issues like reasonable
adjustments. In this case, the following would have sufficed:
 re-assigning Ms. Dworak to ground-only duties,
 reducing her hours and
 working with her on a phased return to work
However, Ryanair had not done any of these things and the Employment Tribunal
unanimously ruled in favour of Dworak, finding that she was discriminated against and
constructively dismissed - and made it clear that simply asking her to look on the website and
apply like anyone else for a ground position was not making any adjustment.
Judge Tobin explains:
“To recruit an existing employee through an open, standard recruitment process was not
making any adjustments whatsoever because this puts an individual with a disability in the
same position as an external, non-disabled candidate. It does not even afford a long-standing
employee with 13-year experience and an exemplary record… any priority whatsoever.”
Damages will be discussed at a remedy hearing, however this is a typical example where a
company has attracted negative publicity by failing to support an employee going through a
temporary disability.
Ryanair plan to appeal the decision - in my legal opinion, their appeal is likely to fail. 
However, their biggest failure is letting go of a loyal employee who didn't want to be off sick
and repeatedly asked them to help her to return to work.
About the author:
Simon Thomas is a Partner with Swansea Law Firm Hutchinson Thomas
23.01.2020 12:51:29

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