Disability and imputed knowledge

21 March 2016

Can knowledge by Occupational Health of a disability be imputed to the employer?

No, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Gallop v Newport City Council.

With thanks to Daniel Barnett’s employment law bulletin which summarises the case:

The EAT found, following the Court of Appeal's guidance in CLFIS (UK) Limited v Reynolds, that knowledge cannot be implied, even where the fact of disability is already known within the organisation. The EAT opined that the focus of an employment tribunal's enquiry ought properly to be on the thought-processes and motivation of the decision-maker. The test is: did the decision-maker know of the disability and were they influenced by it?

This decision conflicts with the EHRC Statutory Code of Practice on Employment at paras.5.17 to 5.19 which provide that employers will usually not be able to use the knowledge defence to a disability discrimination claim if an employer's agent or employee (such as Occupational Health) has knowledge. The Guidance is clear that knowledge is not imputed if it is gained by a person providing independent services to a worker, such as counselling.

We wait to see if this goes to appeal to resolve the conflict.