Disability Discrimination has been high in the news agenda this week, with the Minister reported to have said that he wants to pay less money to disabled staff as he feels they are less productive than others.
There was also the case of the blind lady who was thrown out of a Tesco because she entered the shop with her guide dog. The lady was quoted to say “To clarify, I blame Tesco, a multinational worth billions for not putting proper training in place.” It is clear in this case that the staff were poorly educated in equality and had received no specific training surrounding disability discrimination.
In cases such as these awards for this type of discrimination can be very low indeed compared to those that might be raised against an employer for similar treatment. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and subsequently the Equalities Act 2010 are quite clear in their effects and liabilities on employers. What is scarier is the fact that an ill informed and untrained workforce can bring employers into situations of high cost claims with unlimited awards if breached either by intention or unintentionally.
The definition of disability for the purpose of this legislation is quite broad in so far as it simply requires a member of staff to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially impacts on their ability to carry out a “normal day to day life”.
The second caveat to this is that the condition must have been diagnosed and lasted for at least one year or be likely to last for one year. This is difficult to determine in some cases, along with repeated episodes of a condition which may also qualify.
Under the law, in such cases where there is an established case of disability, the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable the employee to do the role that they are engaged to do or to find alternative work for them.
With mental health conditions which are sometimes hidden disabilities such as depression, bi polar disorder, schizophrenia and learning disabilities, the in-ability, for example, to get up on time or cope with stress at work may lead to them needing adjustments to be able to attend work and fulfil a useful role.
In all cases we would advise getting a medical opinion to advise you of the needs of the person who is disabled when looking at reasonable adjustments along with a meeting with the member of staff themselves who will often understand their own needs.
Once the needs of the employee have been assessed, ensure you look at reasonable adjustments to meet those needs. Some adjustments you may wish to consider are listed below:
- Making adjustments to premises
- Providing information in accessible formats
- Allocating some of the worker’s duties to another person
- Transferring the worker to fill an existing vacancy
- Altering the worker’s hours of working or training
- Assigning the worker to a different place of work or training or allowing home working
- Allowing the worker to be absent during working or training hours for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment
- Allowing the worker to take a period of disability leave
- Giving, or arranging for, training or mentoring (whether for the disabled worker or any other person)
- Acquiring or modifying equipment
- Modifying procedures for testing or assessment
- Providing a reader or interpreter
- Employing a support worker to assist a disabled worker in their role
- Modifying disciplinary or grievance procedures
- Modifying performance-related pay arrangements
- Adjusting redundancy selection criteria
- This may all seem quite daunting to the employer, I can hear cries of “how can I afford all this” as I type…
- Firstly, you are only expected to consider what is ‘reasonable’ and so, for example, employing someone to do the job for the person who is disabled would certainly not be considered reasonable. The duty to make adjustments does not include catering for a personal support worker for the person in respect of their personal needs.
- There is help out there via Access to Work, an organization that will send one of their highly trained team to come and assess what would be considered reasonable and may even make a contribution to any costs for equipment etc. on a sliding scale for employers of all sizes. More information on Access to Work can be found at https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview.
Another other thing to note with Disability Discrimination claims the employee does not have to leave to lodge a claim against you they can do whilst in your employ.
Clearly, in Tesco’s case, training employees on a regular basis could have avoided such public embarrassment.
Since the election their is also talk of get more people of disability and changing the rules which might see a number of people lose motability, and money to help them get care it seems at again the is another reason to demonstrate and make the point too. What will happen to this part of the community ?