August 8, 2019
During an interview process you will encounter numerous applicants with very different characteristics. Some of these applicants may have physical or hidden disabilities that you will need to cater for. In the case of Meier V BT, the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland has recently been presented with the question as to whether or not an employer is required to make reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process.
Mr Meier suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia and dyspraxia. He applied for a job with BT under their graduate recruitment scheme. He had the necessary degree of a 2:1 in computer science. It was stated on Mr Meier’s application that he was a disabled person and he wanted to benefit from BT’s Disability Scheme. Under this scheme BT guaranteed to interview anyone with a disability whose application met the minimum criteria for the role. The application process consisted of an online application, a Situational Strength Test (SST), a Skype interview, assessment centre and a further interview.
The criteria for the role did not stipulate that they would be required to pass the SST. Mr Meier was asked to complete the SST and was rejected because of his low score. Mr Meier argued that the SST was not appropriate for people with Asperger’s and asked BT to make reasonable adjustments to allow him to progress to the next stage in order for his skills to be properly tested.
BT contacted the designers of the test and were advised to seek further details of Mr Meier’s conditions to see if any adjustments could be made to the test itself or whether it would be reasonable to bypass the SST entirely. BT did not seek further clarification and refused to allow this despite being part of a national scheme which guaranteed disabled applicants an interview if they met the minimum requirement for the role.
Mr Meier submitted a claim to the Employment Tribunal for disability discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments. The Tribunal concluded that BT knew or ought to have known that Mr Meier was disabled, and his disability placed him at a substantial disadvantage. BT appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal on the basis that they did not have the necessary knowledge. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Tribunal and upheld the decision.
What to take from this case?
Although this case was heard in Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal and is therefore not binding in England & Wales, it does provide us with an invaluable indication on how the Equality Act will be interpreted should these circumstances occur.
Employers should review their recruitment process, especially if they require applicants to sit and pass tests. Employers can use these methods to assess the skills of an applicant but should ensure that they can offer disabled applicants reasonable adjustments to tests and or provide alternative means of assessing the applicant’s skills.