Recruitment, reasonable adjustments, and fairness 

People can really suffer from a stammer; the condition presents a real issue for those it affects, and research carried out by STAMMA in February 2021 puts this anywhere between 1-3% of the population. 

A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision serves as a helpful reminder to employers on the format of recruitment processes where an applicant discloses a disability. It also highlights the difficulties that someone with a stammer may have when undergoing a recruitment process. 


The Insolvency Service employed the claimant and, after several internal promotions, applied for the position of Deputy Official Receiver. The interviews were conducted remotely by videoconferencing software. The claimant was unsuccessful, losing out by one point. He had a stammer and had made the employer aware of this. The claimant raised a grievance and subsequently issued a claim to the Employment Tribunal (ET) alleging:

  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments and
  • Discrimination arising from something as a consequence of a disability

Employment Tribunal

The ET found that there had been no failure to make reasonable adjustments. 

Although the Insolvency Service’s decision to interview by videoconferencing put the claimant at a significant disadvantage, it did not know the particular effect of his disability.  

The Insolvency Service knew that the claimant had a stammer and needed extra time to answer questions at the interview but was unaware that he also gave shorter answers to avoid his stammer. 

The ET found that the Insolvency Service’s recruitment process discriminated against the claimant due to something arising from his disability. However, the Insolvency Service successfully defended this claim by demonstrating that its recruitment methods were a proportionate means of achieving its legitimate aim of having a fair recruitment process for filling vacancies.

Employment Appeal Tribunal

The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision, finding that the use of videoconferencing in the recruitment process was a justified method of assessment for the Insolvency Service to use, taking into account the nature of the job, that the recruitment took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and that it had also considered the discriminatory impact the method of assessment had on the claimant.


The background to this case took place during 2020 when the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions were at their most stringent, and meetings/interviews by videoconferencing were more commonplace than they otherwise would be. 

The case serves as a valuable lesson for employers to thoroughly think through their recruitment practices in circumstances where they are aware of an claimant’s disability and document their decision-making process. The case is also a reminder for employees with disabilities to fully explain the impact the impairment in question has on them to ensure that reasonable adjustments are fully considered by their prospective employer. 

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