The Department for Work and Pensions has updated its guidance on employing disabled people and those with health conditions to help employers better understand their obligations in this area and to give them confidence in recruiting disabled persons and maintain existing employment relationships.
The guidance states that up to 7million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition. It identifies several benefits to businesses in encouraging applications from disabled people including:
- Increasing the number of high quality applicants available
- Creating a workforce that reflects the business’ diverse range of customers and the community in which it is based
- Bringing additional skills to the business, such as the ability to use British Sign Language (BSL).
It also states that the benefits of retaining an experienced employee who acquires a disability are usually greater than recruiting and training new staff and are likely to be more cost effective as well as highly beneficial for the individual concerned.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to treat someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic. ‘Protected characteristic’ includes race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender, age and disability.
Disability discrimination can include the following:
- Not hiring someone because of their disability
- Selecting a particular person for redundancy because of their disability
- Paying someone with a disability less than another worker without good reason.
Part of the duty on employers when hiring and employing people with disabilities is to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled persons can overcome any significant disadvantage they may have in doing their job and progressing at work. The guidance emphasises that it does not have to be very expensive to make those adjustments, they just have to be reasonable.
For example, if your business occupies the ground and first floor of a building, an employee in a wheelchair may be unable to work on the first floor unless you already have a lift or such other facility installed. It would be a reasonable adjustment therefore to ensure that the employee could work on the ground floor i.e. making up an office and ensuring ramp access. However, it would not necessarily be reasonable to require the employer to install a lift as this would be expensive and require significant adaptation to the building.
The guidance also explains that employers may be able to get help from Access to Work towards some costs of making reasonable adjustments for adaptions or support including special aids and equipment, adaptations to equipment, travel to and from work etc.
The overall emphasis is to open up the workforce and make the most of everyone’s skills and experience. The guidance can be found here.
For more information about making reasonable adjustments and disability discrimination or any other aspect of employment law, please do not hesitate to contact Joanna Sutton or a member of the Employment Team on 020 7294 7330 or 01279 755777.