International Day of People With Disabilities is approaching on 3rd December and with some 7.7 million people of working age in the UK who are disabled or have a health condition, it is more important than ever that employers recognise not just the benefits of encouraging disabled people to apply for their role but also the importance of the support provided once they are employed.
What does the law classify as a disabled person?
The UK’s Equality Act 2010 defines disability for employment purposes and notes that a person is “disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
‘Long term’ means that the condition must last, or be likely to last, for more than 12 months, or is likely to last for the rest of the person’s life. Employees with conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS or multiple sclerosis are covered from their diagnosis date.
This is a broad definition and disability also covers many other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, diabetes and nut allergies.
What do employers need to know?
Employers are legally required to make ‘reasonable adjustments to accommodate a disabled person’s needs and these must be considered with a specific individual and specific role in mind. This is an important part of considerations for employers, no disabilities are exactly alike and the UK’s equality legislation makes it clear that provision must be tailored to individual needs.
Reasonable Adjustments may include:
- making changes to a disabled person’s working pattern
- providing training or mentoring
- making alterations to premises
- ensuring that information is provided in accessible formats
- modifying or acquiring equipment
- allowing extra time during selection ‘tests’
Discrimination and How to avoid it
It is against the law to treat someone less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic, such as being disabled. There are different kinds of discrimination.
Discrimination does not have to be direct to be illegal. You can discriminate indirectly with working conditions or rules that disadvantage a group of people more than another
Discrimination can include, for example
- not hiring someone because of their disability
- selecting a particular person for redundancy because of their disability
- paying someone less than another worker without good reason
Practical steps employers can take right now
- Put in place a Diversity and Equality policy that addresses how your business works with its disabled employees and which clearly demonstrates how the business thinks about disability in the workplace
- Get advice on different conditions to be better informed on how to support employees who may have them
- Focus not on disability but ability management – what an employee can do rather than what they can’t
- Make wellbeing provision a priority – mental health disability is a growing area and cannot be ignored
- Ensure an understanding of disability law and importantly what is classed as discrimination
- Make your job adverts and recruitment processes accessible
- Sign up for Disability Confident – a scheme designed to help your business better understand disability and how you can work with your employees.
Need help getting started with policies or want to check you’re doing everything you can to support disabled employees? We can help! get in touch for a free consultation
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