An HMRC worker has won his claim for disability discrimination and indirect discrimination after he was rejected for a role because he did not have a driving licence.
Hamish Drummond started working for HM Revenue & Customs in 2002 and in 2018 received a no-driving order from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) after experiencing fainting episodes.
In October 2018, he began a new role as a compliance worker in HMRC’s Hidden Economy team, which investigates businesses that do not declare all of their income to the tax office.
This role meant Drummond needed to visit businesses on occasion, and he had informed his employer that he would not be able to drive. The Edinburgh Employment Tribunal heard that this was not an issue because Access to Work funding was available, so a support worker could drive him to these meetings.
However, the meetings required two caseworkers to be present so a colleague would tend to drive Drummond to these sites, meaning the funding was unnecessary.
In 2020, HMRC began recruiting for a number of caseworkers at a higher grade. HMRC decided to make a requirement of the new role that employees have a driving licence, although the tribunal found that no formal assessment had been made into how many met this criteria or how this might impact people with protected characteristics.
When the organisation advertised for the roles it listed a driving licence as a requirement, but added that: “If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes.”
After the advert was published, Drummond’s manager encouraged him to apply for the role. He did so, stating in his application that he did not have a driving licence, and the application process was immediately brought to an end.
Upon receiving a rejection email Drummond queried the process, noting to the hiring manager that he was able to obtain Access to Work funding if necessary and offering to submit a manual application that would bypass HMRC’s filtering systems.
He received a further statement that a driving licence was required, which he queried further because the response did not address his query. He did not receive a full reply until January 2021, when a regional assistant director repeated the requirement for a driving licence. The director claimed he was not “substantially disadvantaged” because he could apply for other roles at HMRC without the need for additional support.
Drummond told the tribunal he was “disappointed and aggrieved” by this response, particularly because he knew there were already people working in the higher role who did not drive.
In February 2021, he raised a grievance, which was followed by an investigation meeting and report. A senior manager met with him in September and wrote to him, but this simply restated the reasons offered in previous emails.
The tribunal upheld Drummond’s claims for disability discrimination and indirect discrimination, and that HMRC had failed to make any reasonable adjustments. It noted that previous recruitment campaigns for the same role had not made a driving licence a requirement.
“It was not proportionate to simply decline the claimant’s application because he did not have a driving licence,” the judgment said.
It made the point that Drummond had not followed the Acas code in appealing the grievance, but found this was not unreasonable in the circumstances.
He was awarded £11,108.49 for financial losses, and £9,071.34 for injury to feelings, plus interest.