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Attendance linked bonus plan deemed discriminatory

The recent case involved a group of disabled employees who worked at the Land Registry, a government department. The Land Registry operated a discretionary bonus scheme, with eligible employees receiving an additional £900 at the end of the year. However, any employees who had been given a formal warning for sickness absence in that year were to be disqualified.The five claimants had all taken sickness leave due to their disabilities. Despite the fact that the Land Registry had made concessions and delayed the point at which employees would be warned, the five all received formal warnings and were therefore not eligible for their bonuses at the end of the year.They brought a case against the Land Registry under the Equality Act 2010. Under the Act, discrimination is defined not only as different treatment due to a disability itself, but treatment due to activity that arises as a consequence of that disability. Thus being denied the bonus due to disability-related sickness leave – even when the employer had made concessions to take account of the disability – still fell into the category of discrimination under the law.The ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal raises the question of how employers expect to apply the Equality Act in practice, and how organisations take this into account in the way they structure bonus plans, formal warnings and other procedures. In this instance, the Land Registry was found to have discriminated against the five employees because there was no leeway in the decision to exclude someone from receiving the bonus if they had been given a warning for non-attendance due to sickness leave. Although the bonus plan was a legitimate business aim, the way it was applied was not.Do you have a problem arising from a workplace situation? Talk to us. We are experienced employment law specialists and can give you the expert advice you need. Call 01302 320621 or email

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