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Withdrawal of a secondment offer for safety reasons was not disability discrimination

In a recent tribunal claim, an employer withdrew an employee’s secondment offer to Montenegro, following medical advice that it would jeopardise the employee’s safety. The employee needed to receive medical clearance before taking the secondment offer as the employee suffered two serious health complications in the previous month. Healix, who carried out the employee’s health assessment, together with the employee’s consultant both considered the employee was at a high-risk of further ill-health episodes. Therefore, it was not advised that the employee should travel to Montenegro.

Occupational health was not aware of the employee’s full medical history so assessed her as being fit to travel if recommendations were followed, including arranging medical insurance. However, Healix disagreed because even if adjustments were made, the adjustments would not have resolved a potential emergency, especially as the employee acknowledged in cross-examination that she would potentially be at risk of an emergency medical episode whilst in Montenegro.

The tribunal held the employer did not discriminate for a reason related to the employee’s disability, and the employer did not fail to make reasonable adjustments. The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision, concluding that withdrawing the secondment offer was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of protecting the health and safety of secondees who work abroad. In determining reasonableness, it was held an employer was not required to adopt adjustments that could alleviate an employee’s disadvantage. The tribunal was entitled to find the adjustments proposed by occupational health would not have sufficiently protected the employee’s health, safety and well-being in Montenegro.