Owen v AMEC Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd and another [2019] EWCA Civ 822

Facts

Mr Owen had double below-knee amputations and type 2 diabetes. He also suffered from hypertension, kidney disease, heart disease and morbid obesity. He worked for Amec in Reading as a chemical engineer and was offered a posting to the UAE. Before being posted he had to undergo a medical assessment with an occupational health provider. The doctor was concerned about whether Mr Owen's disabilities made him unfit for the posting. The job was similar to his role in the UK but there was a high risk of him needing medical attention while he was overseas, due to the high temperatures. Medical facilities in the UAE could increase the risks to him too. Amec decided not to allow him to take up the posting, based on the medical concerns. Mr Owen claimed disability discrimination and a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Decision

the Court of Appeal rejected his claims. The employment tribunal had used the correct comparator; an employee without Mr Owen's disabilities who had been identified as high risk in a medical assessment would not have been treated any differently. There was no reasonable adjustment that could have been made to avoid the substantial disadvantage at which the assessment placed Mr Owen.

Comment

This is a helpful decision for employers. If they have considered the risks to the organisation and the employee and have independent medical advice, an employment tribunal is unlikely to interfere with their decision in a similar situation.