Newsletter: March 2024

Welcome to the March edition of the AdviserPlus newsletter.

In this month’s newsletter we are looking at a recent Employment Tribunal case highlighting the importance of ensuring all employees have the same equal opportunities to attend workplace training courses. This is evident in the ruling of the Miss L Crawford v The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary case.

Finally, we will make note of some key dates for your diary for March, so you are able to plan any activities or recognise any notable events.

Recent Case Law: Failure to allow equal opportunity for all employees to attend workplace training courses.

A recent Employment Tribunal case has highlighted the importance of ensuring all employees have equal opportunities of attending workplace training courses as highlighted in this case. In Crawford v The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary case, the court heard how Miss Crawford was declined the opportunity to attend the company Initial Firearms Course (IFC) due to her disability.

Miss Crawford was successful for the role as a Police Constable in November 2016 after initially joining the force as a Special Constable in January 2015. Miss Crawford was keen to progress her career within the Police after previously gaining a first-class degree in policing and wanted to go on to become an Armed Firearms Officer, to progress into that role Miss Crawford was required to attend the IFC course.

Miss Crawford had previously been diagnosed with dyslexia whilst studying at university in 2013 and was later diagnosed with autism in 2015 whilst still in university and working as a Special Constable. Miss Crawford openly chose to disclose these conditions to her employer despite them being non-disclosable conditions. After her disclosure for autism in 2016 Miss Crawford was referred to Occupational Health to consider any potential reasonable adjustments whilst working in the role of Special Constable, the Occupational Health report noted “there was no significant adverse effects on Miss Crawford’s ability to undertake her usual role as a Special Constable and was fit to continue in her duties”, the report did however suggest extra time in examinations. When applying for the role of Police Constable in November 2016, Miss Crawford was contacted by Occupational Health for more information regarding her autism and dyslexia and following a review she was successful in being appointed into the role.

In June 2019 Miss Crawford applied to become an Authorised Firearms Officer (AFO) and completed the various tests as part of the process including submitting a firearms assessment portfolio, screening by the police standards department, a job-related fitness test, an advanced driving assessment and a short live fire shooting session, all of which she successfully passed and later completed a course in the use of a taser. As part of the application process Miss Crawford again had to be assessed by Occupational Health who noted she did not have any medical conditions that should bar her from AFO duties and whilst she did have a diagnosis of dyslexia and autism, these were not medical conditions, moreover, classified as neurodiverse conditions. The medical adviser stated, “as there is no specific medical condition, the decision comes down to the risk the organisation is prepared to accept in the knowledge of all the facts around her dyslexia and autism conditions”. The report was put on hold pending the decision by the force into her application.

The then Deputy Chief Constable and the Inspector (both now retired) held a meeting to discuss Miss Crawford’s application alongside the Occupational Heath report, and it was agreed further information was required from the College of Policing and Miss Crawfords former and current supervisors. All respondents recommended Miss Crawford progress to the IFC course and in addition a positive email was submitted to the Deputy Chief Constable from the trainer on the taser course highlighting how she had witnessed Miss Crawford’s use of the taser on an aggressive male and that Miss Crawford had handled it brilliantly however, the Deputy Chief Constable made the decision to decline the opportunity for Miss Crawford to attend, which ultimately meant she was unable to progress to becoming an Armed Firearms Officer.

During the tribunal hearing the Deputy Chief Constable confirmed he was aware of Miss Crawford’s condition of Autism and stated she had referred to difficulties in social settings, therefore he presumed this must affect social situations at work as well as home life. He did state he was unaware Miss Crawford was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act. The tribunal accepted Miss Crawford was disabled under the Equality Act 2010 due to her conditions of Dyslexia and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and found the statement from the Deputy Chief Constable’s statement regarding being unaware that Miss Crawford was considered disabled in the meaning of the Equality Act as disingenuous as he had quoted the words from Miss Crawford’s special profile that stated “I have a diagnosis of ASD. This means I genuinely have difficulty with the following areas”, he then went on to list the various traits under bullet points, including “understanding verbal and non-verbal language, making sense of other people’s emotions, feelings and behaviours”. The Force Medical Officer also noted in the Occupational Health report that “the Equality Act was likely to apply” the tribunal therefore established there could be no doubt that the Deputy Chief Constable was aware, had knowledge of the disability, or ought to have been aware that Miss Crawford was a disabled person at the relevant time.

In their judgement (full report here), the tribunal upheld:

  • The complaint of direct disability discrimination by The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary for declining Miss Crawford’s attendance on the Initial Firearms Course (IFC)
  • The complaint of unfavourable treatment because of something arising in consequence of a disability was also successful due to The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary declining Miss Crawford’s attendance on the Initial Firearms Course (IFC)
  • The claim for indirect disability discrimination was upheld as it was accepted that Mrs Crawford’s Provision, criterion or practice (PCP) put her and other officers who shares the same disability, at a particular disadvantage compared to non-disabled officers, namely the rejection of their application to become an AFO.
  • The claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments was accepted due to The Chief Constable of Cumbria constabulary failing to take steps to avoid the disadvantage of Miss Crawford’s Provision, criterion or practice (PCP) that would have allowed her attendance on the Initial Firearms Course (IFC). For example, allowing Miss Crawford to attend the IFC with greater supervision and/or allowing her to attend the IFC as a way of a” functional assessment” and then further assess the situation.
  • The claim for disability related harassment was upheld due to the length of time it took to deal with Miss Crawfords application to attend the Initial Firearms Course (IFC), namely over one year.

March awareness campaigns:

During March there are many awareness campaigns that we can all encourage and support including:

Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2024 which runs from 18th March to 24th March. This is a week to celebrate the many talents that people with neurological differences bring to organisations such as new and innovative ideas, creativity, problem solving skills and attention to detail. Many of the biggest companies in the world actively look to recruit neurodiverse employee in order to benefit from these talents.

Neurodiversity refers to individuals whose brain interpret and process information differently and is a term that often includes conditions such as Autism, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Tourette Syndrome along with many others.

Some dates for your diaries.

  • 1st March – 31st March – Ovarian Cancer and National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
  • 1st March – 31st March – Endometriosis Awareness Month
  • 1st March – 31st March – Walk All Over Cancer 2024
  • 1st March – 31st March – Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 2024
  • 8th March – International Women’s Day 2024
  • 15th March 2024 – Comic Relief/Red Nose Day 2024
  • 16th March 2024 – Disabled Access Day 2024
  • 17th March 2024 – St Patricks Day 2024
  • 20th March 2024 – National Native AIDS Awareness Day
  • 21st March 2024 – World Down Syndrome Day

Note: The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 06/03/24. This does not constitute legal advice and is for information purposes only.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this newsletter or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch.

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