The case of Owen v AMEC Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd considered whether the withdrawal of an offer of an overseas posting due to health concerns amounted to disability discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") held it was not. 

On the facts, the Claimant was offered an opportunity to work in the UAE, subject to passing a medical assessment with an occupational health provider. The doctor raised concerns with the Claimant's health. The offer of the assignment was withdrawn. The Claimant bought a claim for direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of his disability. Both claims failed.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the requirement to pass a medical assessment amounted to a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) for the purposes of an indirect discrimination claim. However it was found to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The specific evidence adduced (e.g. the general health risks involved when flying to UAE) assisted with their judgment that the company's decision was justified.

This case is an important reminder to employers to consider medical evidence carefully and to seek further clarification where they may be doubt. It also confirms the importance of looking at the reason why a decision is made (i.e. because of a disability or because of the increased medical attention the claimant would have needed).

First published Jul 4, 2019.

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