Lift key incident causes disabled shop worker to win tribunal award from M & S

Recently an employment tribunal awarded an employee £1,000 against Marks & Spencer. The award came after a delay in supplying him with a lift key to enable him to reach the toilets easier.

The employment tribunal held that Marks & Spencer had breached its duty towards an employee Mr Mitchell. Under the Equality Act 2010, the company had failed to make reasonable adjustments for their disabled workers.

Mr Mitchell told the tribunal that he has a disability which requires him to use the bathroom on a regular basis. He would reach the staff toilets on the second floor by using the goods lift, stairs, or escalator.

Due to an up-coming operation, Mr Mitchell advised Marks & Spencer that he anticipated more frequent visits to the toilet. Mr Mitchell told the tribunal that he had brought this up, both before his operation, and afterwards. He had asked various managers for a lift key to be cut. While waiting for the key, Mr Mitchell used the goods lift.

Expecting a lift key after his operation, and not receiving one, Mr Mitchell took the matter up with management. Ten days after his operation, Mitchell was issued with a customer lift key. The key cost £3 to cut.

In the employment tribunal, Mr Mitchell claimed disability discrimination, with the majority of the tribunal upholding his claim. They accepted that using the customer lift instead of the goods lift made a difference for Mr Mitchell. It was more reliable, convenient, and faster.

The tribunal went on to reject the company’s argument that there was not much difference between the two lifts and awarded Mr Mitchell £1,000 for injury to his feelings.

The view of the tribunal was that there could be very little excuses or explanations for M&S in not providing Mr Mitchell with a key for 10 days, when keys were readily available. Even if there were no keys available, the cost of cutting an additional key was just £3. M&S should have provided Mr Mitchell with a key as soon as he returned to work after his operation.

Accepting the company’s arguments, the tribunal agreed that the award should be a relatively low amount because of the lack of intended malice or deliberate withholding of a key. The tribunal agreed that due to the short length before providing a key, and the minor chance of injury to feelings, that £1,000 was an acceptable amount.


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