Case study: is it a reasonable adjustment to continue to pay a disabled teacher their full teaching salary when they can no longer perform the teaching role?

Posted on September 16th, 2021

It is a long-established legal principle that paying a member of staff in the long-term for a role they are not performing will not usually amount to a reasonable adjustment. This can include during periods of sickness absence by reason of the employee’s disability.

Established principle

This principle was established in a case called O’Hanlon v HM Revenue & Customs where the court of appeal held that it was not a reasonable adjustment to pay a disabled member of staff their full pay while off sick and by reason of their disability.

The court of appeal commented in that case that the purpose of the disability discrimination legislation was ‘to assist the disabled to obtain employment and to integrate them into the workforce’.

Further, that it was not ‘simply to put more money into the wage packet of the disabled’ but was to ‘enable them to play a full part in the world of work’.

Disabled teacher

A new employment appeal tribunal (EAT) claim has considered a similar situation for a teacher.

In the case of Aleem v E-Act Academy, the EAT was asked to consider whether the trust’s decision to reduce a teacher’s salary was discriminatory by reason of it failing to make a reasonable adjustment.

Mental ill health

The claimant, Ms Aleem, was a science teacher who suffered mental ill health. Her condition was deemed a disability and it had prevented her from being able to undertake her teaching post, with her having taken a lot of time off due to sickness absence.

OH confirmed she was unfit to continue

Occupational health (OH) confirmed that she was unfit to continue in her post of science teacher but that she may be fit for the role of cover supervisor.

Pay protected for three months

As a reasonable adjustment, the trust moved Ms Aleem to a cover supervisor post for a three month trial period. She was advised that her salary would be pay protected temporarily for the three months, but thereafter would be reduced.

Pay reduced

When the post was made permanent her salary reduced. Ms Aleem sued the trust for failing to make a reasonable adjustment in that they failed to continue protecting her teacher salary.

Claim and appeal failed

Her claim and appeal failed. The EAT stated that the trust had been clear that salary protection was temporary and there were no exceptional circumstances to have considered ongoing pay protection.

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