Disability in the workplace – an HR & Employment law update

An article released by People Management claimed that 1 in 4 employers would not hire someone with a disability. The reasons varied from cost to belief that they wouldn’t be able to do the job.

All employers are expected to comply with The Equality Act 2010. The act protects all employees with a mental or physical disability from being discriminated against.

There are 5 main types of disability discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination – This is when an individual is treated less favourably because of a disability.
  • Indirect discrimination – An example of when this can happen in the workplace could be where a workplace rule, practice or procedure is applied to all employees, but disadvantages those who are disabled. A practice, policy or rule can be formal or informal. It can be a one-off decision or a decision to do something in the future.
  • Harassment – When unwanted conduct related to a person’s disability causes a distressing, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
  • Victimisation – Treating someone unfairly because they have made or supported a com-plaint about disability discrimination.
  • Discrimination arising from disability – Where someone is treated less favourably due to their disability.

What should an employer do?

Make reasonable adjustments: An employer failing to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a disabled job applicant or employee is one of the most common types of disability discrimination. If adjustments are ‘reasonable’, an employer must make them to ensure its workplace or practices do not disadvantage a disabled job applicant or employee already with the organisation.

  • Have rules in place to prevent disability discrimination in:
  • recruitment and selection
  • determining pay, terms and conditions
  • sickness absence
  • training and development
  • promotion
  • dismissal
  • redundancy

As mentioned earlier, if a workplace procedure, practice or rule puts an employee with a disability at a disadvantage, an employer should look to see what ‘reasonable adjustments’ it can make and meet with them to discuss what can be done to help them.

The overriding message here is as an employer you are required under the equality act to ensure employees or candidates are not treated less favourably due to their condition. In particular, it should never form part of your decision-making process when recruiting to a role within your business.

If you are unsure whether you are complying with legislation in relation to disability in the workplace, speak to our team, and we’ll be happy to provide guidance.