The second of this month's two disability cases, Burke v The College of Law & Anor, was a decision of the Court of Appeal concerning a mature student at the College of Law who had multiple sclerosis. He was seeking to qualify as a solicitor, and over the period of the legal practice course agreed a number of adjustments with the College to mitigate the effect of his disability. As the exams approached, he made requests for further special arrangements. These, including 60% extra time to complete exam papers with opportunities to take breaks, were agreed. However, part way through the exams, Mr Burke asked for yet more adjustments, including being allowed to take the remaining exams at home in Brighton and unsupervised. The College refused this, but did offer to arrange accommodation for him near the college during the exam period.
Ultimately Mr Burke failed the exams and made a complaint of disability discrimination. He was unsuccessful at the employment tribunal, on the basis that the College had made all the adjustments it reasonably could. The employment tribunal also considered that the time limit for sitting an exam was a "competency standard", set by a qualifications body, which would mean that it would in any event fall within an exception to the obligation to make reasonable adjustments under both the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010. The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with this.
The Court of Appeal, however, ruled that the case could be decided – in the College's favour – by considering the question of whether the college had made reasonable adjustments alone. In doing so it concluded that it was not necessary to consider "the particular and interesting question whether the time requirement is a competence standard", so the question of whether the time limit falls outside de the scope of the duty to make reasonable adjustments remains unanswered.