Tribunal rules Wrexham bakery did not make reasonable adjustments for blind employee

Wrexham bakery reasonable adjustmentsAn employment tribunal has ruled that a Wrexham bakery did not do enough to make reasonable adjustments for a man registered as blind before dismissing him during his probation period.

Ian Stanley is registered as legally blind and was diagnosed with Bardet Biedl syndrome in 2010. He was employed as a night-shift operator at the Village Bakery in July 2023. On the first day of his employment, he disclosed in a form that he had a visual impairment, and passed an assessment that checked his eligibility.

His role included moving bread from the oven area to cool, splitting bread to assist with cooling, recording the temperature of the bread, and moving bread racks around the factory. Stanley was trialled in different areas of the factory and worked alongside a ‘buddy’, but they did not correct his performance, and did not offer a health and safety risk assessment.

Kevin Jones, Stanley’s shift manager, told the tribunal the night-shift supervisor had seen him crash racks of bread into machinery, and that he had been close to hitting staff with racks or trolleys. Despite this, nobody raised concerns with him, or mentioned how his disability could have impacted his work, though a manager informed him that bread had fallen off the end of his trolley.

On 21 August, Stanley was told that he would have a probationary review the following day, where he was told he had not reached the required standard. He was informed that his employment would end on 30 August.

The tribunal ruled that the respondents knew, or ought to have known, that it would take the Stanley longer to achieve their standards within the probationary timeframe. It found he had been subject to unfavourable treatment as a result of his disability.

The judge suggested that reasonable adjustments could have included giving Stanley more time to familiarise himself with the processes, people and factory environment. They also advised designating a support worker or offering a high visibility vest, and that the Royal National Institute for Blind People or Access to Work could have been consulted for adjustments funding.

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Employment Judge R Brace said: “[He] had been subjected to unfavourable treatment as a result of his disability, as the respondents ought to have known his disability would make him liable to disadvantage and had not made reasonable adjustments. [His] dismissal was not proportionate to the respondents’ concerns for health and safety or loss of earnings due to his low performance.”

Remedies will be decided at a future hearing. Village Bakery was contacted for comment prior to publication.