Case study: Glasson v The Insolvency Service

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently delivered an interesting judgment in the case of Glasson v The Insolvency Service, providing a helpful reminder to employers on the importance of knowledge of a disability when deciding whether discrimination has occurred.

Facts of the Mr S Glasson v The Insolvency Service case

Mr Glasson, who has a stammer, had been employed by the Insolvency Service since 2005. He applied for a promotion in August 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, oral interviews were conducted by video conferencing for the two available positions. Mr Glasson requested an adjustment to the interview process on the application form, indicating that he may need more time to answer questions due to his stammer.

While Mr Glasson performed well overall, he was not offered either of the two available positions due to scoring one point less than the second most successful candidate. He brought employment tribunal claims against the Insolvency Service for failure to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments under Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination arising from disability under Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Glasson argued that he had been disadvantaged at the interview as his stammer meant he went into “restrictive mode”, giving shorter answers to some questions, as a way of avoiding his stammer, and thus scoring lower. However, Mr Glasson had not previously raised this effect of his stammer.

Employment Tribunal decision

The Tribunal rejected the Section 20 claim of failure to make reasonable adjustments and the Section 15 claim of discrimination arising from disability. In respect of the reasonable adjustments claim, they found that the format of the interview had put Mr Glasson to a disadvantage, but that the Insolvency did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to know, that the format would have the effect of triggering Mr Glasson’s “restrictive mode”.

In respect of the Section 15 claim, they found that Mr Glasson had been treated unfavourably because of something arising from his disability, but that any discriminatory treatment was justified as a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of having a fair and proportionate recruitment process.

Mr Glasson appealed.

Sasha Dixon is a trainee solicitor in our employment law team.