What Is A Disability?
Disability law can seem like a minefield and realistically, one of the biggest problems for employers is defining what is and isn’t a disability – many special needs are deemed to be disabilities in the workplace, for example.
UK employment law says someone is disabled if they have a physical or mental health impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to carry out their daily activities.
The daily activities are not necessarily day-to-day things like cleaning up or cooking; they are usually the core tasks expected of an employee in their particular role.
This is where it can get tricky.
If someone works in a warehouse and is fine to drive a forklift truck, but cannot lift heavy packages by hand due to a back problem, are they disabled?
Should they be expected to carry heavy boxes 10% of the time, or ever?
This is where it is handy to contact an employment lawyer.
I do not know if my employee is disabled or not…
It is not always obvious; if someone has mental health issues, like a depression, for example, it’s invisible, but it can certainly affect their work performance. Other conditions like Dyslexia could affect some aspects of an employee’s performance, but with some small adjustments they can do awesome work 😉
If you notice certain deficits in performance, or a sudden drop in standards, then your first course of action is to have a meeting with the employee to see if there are problems and what can be done to improve things.
You should not jump to conclusions and look to dismiss the worker (illegal), especially if you can help or make reasonable adjustments.
What Are Reasonable Adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments mean that you are making your workplace or the employee’s role more accessible and easier to manage, according to their disability.
- installing a ramp, a lift or a ground-floor bathroom for a wheelchair-user;
- providing someone with arthritis or back problems a special ergonomic keyboard or chair;
- special software for a dyslexic employee, and
- offering more flexible hours, including working from home, for someone who finds it difficult to travel in rush hour due to a physical or mental health issues.
The adjustments should be reasonable – your business should be able to afford and maintain these talented employees without affecting its day-to-day running and viability.
For example, if you cannot afford to install a lift for a wheelchair user, then you might look at installing a ramp and a ground-floor bathroom. Generally, larger companies are expected to be able to make more adjustments than smaller enterprises as they have a bigger budget. Most often, the decision to not make reasonable adjustments is down to economics, but you have to demonstrate this honestly and transparently.
If for some reason your business cannot make reasonable adjustments, then you need to provide evidence that you have explored and tried to implement them!
You need to justify your decision not to implement them (in the long-term) and most UK employers do need help and advice and someone like elliswhittam can help you – through this maze.
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