Are you equipped to manage disability in the workplace?
The practical, day to day issues that can be faced when managing disability in the workplace can be challenging.
Firstly, identifying who is disabled and who qualifies for protection under the Equality Act 2010 is not always as simple as it may seem in that a person has to satisfy all the elements of the definition of disability to prove that they have a disability.
A disability can be either physical or mental and, in the latter case, the illness no longer needs to be one that is clinically recognised.
An employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to prevent a disabled person being substantially disadvantaged by features of the workplace or by working arrangements as compared to someone who is not suffering from that disability. Failure to comply with this duty, without justification, would be unlawful discrimination and could result in a claim for constructive dismissal.
The importance of up to date contracts, and associated policies cannot be over emphasised in order to ensure that you as an employer are well equipped to deal with disability in the workplace. Equally important however is management training on this subject, particularly taking into account Sections 110, 111 and 112 of the Equality Act which consider personal liability as well as instructing, causing, inducing and aiding discrimination.
There is no doubt that compliance with relevant legislation is fundamental however, adopting a positive, fair approach and ultimately focusing on the ability rather than the disability is also vital.
With this point in mind, the role of HR is key, particularly in cases where it is difficult to follow a given policy and/or procedure. Common such situations include employees on long-term sickness absence refusing medical consents or any attempt to engage with the employer, the sensitive management of mental health illness or issues arising from performance management, disciplinary action and/or grievance.
The Health & Safety Executive states that there are over 6.9 million disabled people who are of working age, representing nearly one in five people of working age in Great Britain. Act now to ensure that you are equipped to deal with disability in the workplace and reap the rewards of better utilising the skills, experience and potential of those with disabilities.
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