The case of G4S Cash Solutions (UK) Limited v Powell has caused a number of employers great concern.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal found that protecting a disabled employee’s pay can be a reasonable adjustment.
In Mr Powell’s case, due to back problems, he became unfit for his job working on the maintenance and repair of cash machines. His employer moved him to a more junior role as a reasonable adjustment as it required less physical activity. G4S kept him at the same rate of pay. Mr Powell understood this new role to be a long term adjustment. However, his employer later sought to reduce his pay by 10% and when Mr Powell refused, he was dismissed.
The EAT said there is no reason in principle why pay protection, alongside other reasonable adjustments, cannot be part of a package of measures to help the employee stay in work. It determined that pay protection was nothing more than another cost for the employer, similar to that providing extra support , training or equipment.
However, whether it will be reasonable for an employer to take such step will depend on the circumstances of the case. Financial considerations would also have to be weighed in the balance by a tribunal if a claim were made.
In this case, the particular circumstances were taken into account. Mr Powell had been paid at a higher rate of pay for nearly a year and, the Court agreed, had been led to believe that they arrangement would be long term. G4S was a company with a large number of employees, substantial resources and could easily afford to pay the additional 10%.
G4S argued that paying Mr Powell the higher rate would cause discontent with other employees. The Tribunal did not consider the impact on other employees of an adjustment was a factor which should be taken into account when considering reasonableness.
This case reminds us of the need to think creatively when considering reasonable adjustments as well as being open, transparent and clear in communications with staff.
It shows the importance of managing employees’ expectations and being clear about the adjustments which are to be made and for how long those will continue.