Employment Law Cases

Reasonable adjustments and fairness of dismissal

Knightley v Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust

A failure to make reasonable adjustments as part of a dismissal process doesn’t mean that the dismissal itself is necessarily unfair.


Ms Knightley was dismissed following a capability procedure. The trust denied her an extension of time to appeal against dismissal. She brought a tribunal claim for, among other things, unfair dismissal, discrimination arising from disability (s. 15 of the Equality Act) and a failure to make reasonable adjustments (s. 20 the Equality Act). The tribunal upheld the failure to make reasonable adjustments claim but held the dismissal overall was fair as an appeal wouldn’t have affected the fairness of her dismissal. The s. 15 claim was also dismissed, the tribunal holding that dismissal was proportionate.

Ms Knightley appealed on the basis that the upheld finding meant she was deprived of her right of appeal and thus her unfair dismissal claim should be allowed. She also argued that if the dismissal was procedurally unfair, her s.15 claim should succeed as objective justification should fail.

EAT decision

The appeal was dismissed.

The EAT pointed out that the case concerned three different statutory torts (wrongs), each with different ingredients. The fact that one of the statutory torts has been committed does not mean that any of the others necessarily will have been. The legal principles applicable to each claim should be separately applied to the facts found. Whilst findings on one of the torts may also apply to the others, that does not mean that the requirements of those other torts are necessarily satisfied. It may be relevant but does not dispose of the matter from a legal perspective. Here, considering each basis of claim separately, the tribunal had adequately and appropriately reached its conclusions in different directions on each of the claims.


This is a refreshing common-sense approach and means that even if an employer does get it wrong in relation to reasonable adjustments, it does not mean that all of the other claims will automatically succeed; they will be judged on their merits.