DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION & REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION & REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS

Dealing with Disability in the Workplace

Disability discrimination is one of the most common claims made against employers. This is partly due to the fact that the definition of disability under the Equality Act is very wide and states that a physical or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more and affects simple day to day activities can be deemed to be a ‘disability’.

Quite simply it can therefore give protection to employees with a ‘bad back’ or ‘migraine’ and will very likely cover medical complaints such as Depression, Bi Polar, Asthma and Diabetes and many more. There are also some conditions that will automatically be considered as a disability (e.g. cancer).

Disability discrimination is one of the most common claims made against employers. This is partly due to the fact that the definition of disability under the Equality Act is very wide and states that a physical or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more and affects simple day to day activities can be deemed to be a ‘disability’.

Potential disability discrimination will not just arise if someone is off sick; but may also arise during the course of employment when their ability to carry out tasks or duties are affected due to a physical or mental health condition. 

The secret to managing any situations such as this is to take medical advice and consider reasonable adjustments.

A reasonable adjustment will help ensure the organisations workplace or practices do not disadvantage someone with a disability and if an adjustment is ‘reasonable’, an employer should make it.

Depending on the circumstances a reasonable adjustment may include providing equipment (‘Access to Work’, www.gov.uk/access-to-work, may help with the funding for equipment in some circumstances); making changes to a job role or even changing working hours. Every situation will be different, and consideration needs to be given to the particular circumstances. When it comes to mental health you may consider carrying out a stress risk assessment or providing a mentor. You may also consider counselling for the employee.  

But how do you know what adjustments to make? Employers are not medical advisors and you should resist the temptation to make assumptions about an employee’s health. In many situations it will be worthwhile seeking a medical opinion. Using an Occupational Health Service can be a good option. It can help both Employer and Employee understand the medical condition and you can ask advice on reasonable adjustments, that may help the employee and allow them to continue to work and contribute to the business. You should also ask the employee what adjustments they believe would assist them.

Occupational Health will generally be able to provide assistance in a timely manner and many now provide assessments via the telephone rather than a physical meeting.  This not only saves time, it also keeps cost down.

If you have any concerns about an employee, please give us a call and we can provide assistance and access to our Occupational Health advisers.

Angela Dansey.

You can contact Angela on angela@practical-hr.co.uk

If you feel that you need guidance or advice on this matter, please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email Angela on the above.