Discrimination – Overseas Assignments for Disabled Workers

Friday 31st May 2019

In Owen v AMEC Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd the Court of Appeal heard an appeal from the EAT regarding claims of discrimination against the Respondent after it withdrew an offer for Mr Owen to take up an assignment overseas.


The Equality Act 2010 provides that it is unlawful to, directly or indirectly, unjustifiably treat a disabled person unfavorably because of something arising from, or in consequence of, that disabled person’s disability.


The Claimant has type two diabetes, has double below  the knee amputations and was identified as having other conditions such as heart disease. Mr Owen was offered a placement to work in the UAE, this was withdrawn however when a medical report commissioned by the Respondent and carried out but a third party occupational health provider raised concerns about his health and said he was high risk of needing treatment whilst overseas.

The Employment Tribunal and the EAT held that there was no direct or indirect discrimination against Mr Owen, as a person who was not disabled but was deemed to be at high risk would have been treated in the same manner by the Respondent.

Decision and Comment

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of both the Employment Tribunal and the EAT, holding that  that there was no error of law in the decision reached by the lower courts. It also held that, implementing a requirement to pass a medical assessment before being posted overseas was objectively justified. Employers should still carefully consider any medical advice received when making such a decision.