• Robert Spicer

Disability discrimination: wheelchair user: FirstGroup bus: no compensation:Supreme Court

Reasonable adjustments

Case FirstGroup plc v Paulley [2017} IRLR 258, Supreme Court

Facts P, a wheelchair user, tried to catch a bus operated by F. The wheelchair space on the bus was occupied by a woman with a sleeping child in a pushchair. She refused to move when asked to do so by the driver. The driver refused to allow P to fold down his wheelchair and use an ordinary seat. P complained of disability discrimination on the basis that F had failed to make reasonable adjustments to its policies. The county court allowed the claim and awarded him £5000 compensation. The court found that there was a PCP of £first come first served”. Possible reasonable adjustments would have included posting a notice which positively required a non-disabled passenger occupying a space to move from it if a wheelchair user needed it. F successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal and P appealed to the Supreme Court.

Decision 1. The appeal was allowed.

2. Good practice would have been a policy to encourage drivers to go as far as they thought appropriate to induce a recalcitrant passenger to reconsider his or her refusal.

3. The award of damages would not be upheld. P had not established that if an adjustment had been made, there was at least a real prospect that it would have made a difference. There was no finding by the county court that if F had phrased the notice more peremptorily and/or required its drivers to be more forceful, that requirement would have been satisfied, given that there would have been no question of actual enforcement.

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