The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that employers are not always required to make reasonable adjustments and create the ideal job for an employee returning from sickness absence.
In the case of Makuchova v Guoman Hotel Management, Makuchova claimed that no adjustments were made to help her return to work while she was off sick for nearly a year prior to her dismissal.
The employer was prepared to make adjustments to enable the hotel supervisor to return to her previous role, which included a break of up to 15 minutes after working for one hour, not having to carry heavy loads and allowing a phased return over a three-week period.
But Makuchova did not want to do this and applied for alternative employment in finance or sales unsuccessfully.
There were a number of similar job roles to the one she had prior to her dismissal after sickness absence but the claimant did not apply for these until the very end of her employment when she asked for a receptionist post but only at the hotel where she worked. There was no vacancy available.
The claimant attempted to rely on the landmark case of Archibald v Fife Council, in which the House of Lords held that the duty to make reasonable adjustments might require an employer to appoint a disabled employee to an alternative post, even if that employee is not the best candidate.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) agreed with the tribunal and held that the claimant’s situation was very different from the Archibald case because Mukuchova would be considered fit to return to work in her previous job given the adjustments her employer was willing to make.
It was also held that the claimant’s preference for an alternative job was now viable becuase she was not capable of taking up the post unless provided with training. The EAT agreed that there was no duty on the employer to provide such training when other jobs were available including her own if she accepted the organisation’s adjustments.
The EAT explained that the nature of the obligation is to do what is reasonable and not to accept what the employee contends is reasonable.