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Top Tips: Equality In The Workplace For Disabled Employees

1. Do not ask questions about an employee’s physical or mental health during the recruitment process, including their sickness record. The only exception is inquiring whether interview attendees require adjustments to the application and interview process. For example, larger print for forms and longer time scale to complete competency tests. See our factsheet for more information on Equality in Recruitment.

2. If your prospective or current employee discloses that they are disabled, ensure that you discuss how their disability effects them. This is to understand whether there are any Reasonable Adjustments that can be made in the workplace, both to support them and alleviate any substantial disadvantage. See our factsheet on Reasonable Adjustments.

3. If your employee is on sick leave, use your Back to Work Interview to discuss their health problems. This is an opportunity to consider whether your employee is likely to have a disability, within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Remember, you may be liable for disability discrimination, if you knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that your employee was disabled. See our factsheet here on assessing whether your employee is disabled.

4. If your company cannot afford to make a particular adjustment requested by your employee, you or your employee should contact Access to Work to establish whether any government funding is available. Examples include taxi fares to and from work and adaptations to equipment.

5. Consider contacting relevant charities or organisations specific to your employees disabilities as many provide useful help and advice. For example Employment Support Retraining Agency (ESRA) in Surrey, help employees with disabilities to stay in work.

6. Ensure that if you have an Equal Opportunities Policy you train your staff so that they know to follow this. Employment Tribunal Judges, when dealing with discrimination cases will always ask if there is an Equal Opportunities or Equality and Diversity policy. It is just as bad to have a policy but not act on it, as to have no policy at all.

7. Many disabilities are not obvious – particularly mental health impairments. Look out for changes in your employees usual behaviour. This can include a marked drop in performance, tiredness, increased sickness absence, and out of character behaviour such as aggression.

8. Reasonable Adjustments may mean adjusting any one of your policies to ensure a level playing field. For example, if you are making a redundancy, and sickness absence is one of the criteria, you must discount any disability related sickness. See our FAQs on Redundancy Selection and Discrimination.

9. If disciplining an employee, carry out careful investigation to ensure that what you consider is a ‘won’t do’ (misconduct), is actually a ‘can’t do’ (capability). For example, aggressive behaviour from an employee to a colleague; caused by high levels of anxiety and stress, would be better dealt with as a capability issue, in order to provide appropriate support.

10. Ensure ongoing training on all equality issues for all people managing, or supervising colleagues will ensure best practice and a harmonious workplace. See our workplace training courses here.

For more information about how to support staff with disabilities in the workplace, please contact our Employment team on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

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