HR and Disability Discrimination

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Despite the advancements in workplace diversity and inclusion, tackling disability discrimination remains a pressing challenge.   While the Equality Act 2010 mandates employers to establish reasonable adjustments for individuals with disabilities, the approach has its limitations.

Alongside looking at reasonable adjustments, employers should undertake thorough reviews of policies and working practices, including looking to implement an Inclusion and Diversity Policy.  Structured feedback from employees with disabilities and long-term conditions is also encouraged and proves consistently useful in developing an open and inclusive workplace culture.

Making reasonable adjustments

Employers are required to understand the barriers a disabled employee is experiencing and must put adjustments in place to accommodate them and resolve difficulties; it is key that employers involve the employee in discussions about ‘reasonable’ adjustments.   It is also acceptable for organisations to consider their resources (including finances and equipment) when considering what is ‘reasonable’ for your employee.

Reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Altering premises – such as automated doors, ramps, or quiet spaces.
  • Altering assessment procedures – such as giving extra time or providing assistive technology.
  • Training, mentoring or support (such as speech to text software).
  • Modified or specialist equipment – such as supportive chairs, height-adjustable or standing desks.
  • Communication – providing an interpreter (for example, for deaf people or those with a speech impairment).
  • Time off during working hours – for example, for hospital appointments, physiotherapy, counselling, or treatment.
  • Flexible working or adjusted hours.

Non-visible (hidden) disabilities

Employers may need to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities that are not obvious which are sometimes referred to as non-visible disabilities.    This may include conditions such as diabetes, autism spectrum disorders, gastric problems, depression, or anxiety.  People with visible disabilities may also have non-visible ones.

There is currently no legal obligation for employees to reveal a disability unless they need reasonable adjustments or there is a health and safety risk, and it may be unnecessary to establish if employees have non-visible disabilities if no changes to their working practices are needed.   In some cases, it may be best practice to make adjustments for anyone with problems at work, with their agreement.

Some employees may be in denial about a condition or may conceal it due to fear of discrimination.  Managers should be trained to spot warning signs such as poor performance, persistent lateness, and irregular bouts of sickness absence.   Open and supportive working environments are important to encourage employees to discuss any difficulties they are experiencing.

Further examples of reasonable adjustments for those with non-visible (hidden) disabilities may include:

  • Providing quiet workspaces to reduce distractions.
  • Allowing part-time home working.
  • Monitoring workload and targets.
  • Clear, unambiguous instructions.
  • Dividing work into smaller tasks.
  • Allowing telephone calls in work time to a family member for support.
  • Allowing more frequent breaks for example for stress management techniques.
  • Pre-notification of any changes to desk space or other routines.

The final thing would be to say that all your hard work in terms of putting in place reasonable adjustments, does not end there.    It is vital that we as managers, do not rest on our laurels and that we continue to review, adjust, and communicate with our employees on a regular basis.

If you need any specialist support on this topic please contact our HR Growth Team on 01274 864 999.

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