international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Disability discrimination: Neurodiversity

Authors: Frances Ross and Corinna Harris

AECOM’s recruitment process requires candidates to create a login to complete an online application form. Mr. Mallon, who has dyspraxia, emailed AECOM attaching his CV and some general information about dyspraxia, and asked to make an oral application instead, on account of his disability. AECOM made repeated requests for him to explain his difficulties with the online process by email, but he failed to respond. When he was unsuccessful in his job application, he brought a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments for his disability. AECOM argued that the duty to make reasonable adjustments was not engaged because he had failed to explain his specific difficulties, despite their repeated requests. 

The tribunal upheld Mr. Mallon’s claim, finding that AECOM had constructive knowledge of the effects of Mr. Mallon’s disability, despite his failure to provide a full account, and they knew that he had difficulty completing the online application. Given his disability, it was not reasonable to expect Mr. Mallon to explain these difficulties in a written communication, and the tribunal stated that AECOM should have telephoned him after he failed to respond to the HR manager’s emails.  

AECOM appealed, and the EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision on these grounds. It did, however, uphold an additional ground of appeal (as to whether he had genuinely been applying for the job rather than seeking to engineer an opportunity to bring a tribunal claim), and this was sent back to the tribunal for reconsideration. 


Practical Point

This case is a reminder to employers that they may need to adapt their recruitment procedures, as part of their duty to make reasonable adjustments, to accommodate neurodivergent job applicants.  

If an applicant has a disability, employers should ask whether they require any reasonable adjustments and speak to them directly if their condition makes it difficult for them to communicate electronically.