Employment Law Update – Auto-Enrolment Consultation / Tribunal Quarterly Statistics
Paulley v First Group plc  All ER (D) 101 (Dec)
The claimant, who was a wheelchair user, boarded a bus but was unable to travel because the wheelchair space was being used by a mother with a pushchair. In accordance with company policy, the bus driver asked the woman to fold away her pushchair, but she refused. As a result, the claimant was forced to disembark and catch the next bus 15 minutes later. He missed the train he was intending to catch, and arrived an hour late at his destination.
The bus company operated a policy which stated that, although wheelchair users were entitled to priority use of the space in principle, this ran in tandem with a 'first come, first served' approach. Bus drivers would be able to ask other passengers to vacate the space but, if the passenger in question refused, the driver would not be required to pursue this any further.
The claimant claimed that the bus company had failed to make reasonable adjustments by failing to put in place a policy which made priority for wheelchair users a requirement. The County Court held that the bus company had breached the duty to make reasonable adjustments, as disabled people were put at a substantial disadvantage by the company's policy. The Court deemed the disadvantage to be 'substantial', because a disabled person may have to wait for the next bus or take a different form of transport.
The bus company appealed the decision.
The Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that to impose a policy, which compelled all other passengers to vacate the wheelchair space, irrespective of the reasons and leaving no discretion to the driver, would be a 'step too far'.
It stated that the County Court had misdirected itself when it ruled that the rights of wheelchair passengers overrode those of all others. The duty to make adjustments for disabled passengers required bus operators to take into account other passengers and the inconvenience caused to them as a result of a policy giving priority to wheelchair passengers.
Tips for Employers
This case provides useful guidance on the extent to which companies are obliged to make reasonable adjustments and also on the balancing of the needs of other, non-disabled, individuals.
Amended Auto-Enrolment Regulations have been published by the Department of Work and Pensions ('DWP'), which will make a number of technical changes to the regime. It is hoped that the changes will ease the administrative burden on small and micro employers due to reach their staging dates in 2015 and beyond. The Regulations are expected to come into force on 6 April 2015, and can be found here.
Tribunal Quarterly Statistics July to September 2014
The statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, show a continuing trend in the decline of the number of Employment Tribunal claims presented. For the period July to September, the Tribunal system received 60% fewer claims than in the same period last year. However, the number of claims received increased by 12% on the previous quarter, April to June 2014.