The man on the Wetherby-Leeds omnibus


The Supreme Court's judgment in First Group plc v Paulley looks at what constitutes a 'reasonable adjustment' under the Equality Act 2010.

When looking at what is 'reasonable', context is everything. Mr Paulley uses a wheelchair. He wanted to use a space on a bus which had a wheelchair sign next to it but it was already occupied by a woman with her child sleeping in a pushchair. She was asked to move by the driver but she refused. Mr Paulley had to wait for the next bus and therefore missed his train.

It came down to this: how far should the driver have gone in order to discharge the bus company's duty to make reasonable adjustments? Was requesting that the woman move enough or should it have required her to move?

According to the Supreme Court, the answer was 'somewhere in between'. The driver should have requested that the non-wheelchair user vacate the space and IF the driver considered that the refusal to move was unreasonable, he should then have considered putting further pressure on the non-wheelchair user to move (but should not have required her to move).

Lord Sumption says in his judgment: "this is a sensitive area in which the circumstances may be infinitely varied and techniques of persuasion are not susceptible to detailed legal prescription". In other words, every case concerning reasonable adjustments will turn on its own facts.