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Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: A Summary for Employers

Treating your employees fairly in the workplace is all part of being a great employer, but taking the necessary steps to ensure every team member receives fair and equal treatment is also necessary for staying compliant.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees as a result of protected characteristics, including those such as age, sexual orientation, race and disability.

What is disability discrimination?

Under the legislation, an employee is considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial effect on their ability to carry out routine tasks and day-to-day activities. Depending on the industry, these activities may include using a computer, stacking shelves or waiting tables.

Discrimination against an employee with a disability can take many forms, including direct and indirect discrimination as the main well-known ones:

  • Direct discrimination refers to the adverse treatment of an employee with a disability in circumstances where other employees would not be treated unfavourably.
  • Indirect discrimination refers to workplace policy, criteria or rule that puts employees with a disability at an unfair advantage.

“Workplace disability discrimination is illegal at all stages of the employment, from the application process to pay opportunities and redundancies/dismissal “

Others include discrimination arising from disability, a failure to apply reasonable adjustments, discrimination by association and by perception.  Additionally, harassment and victimisation against an employee with a disability are also unlawful under the act:

  • Harassment is defined as treatment which creates a hostile, offensive, degrading, humiliating or intimidating environment for the employee.
  • Victimisation occurs where an employee is subject to a detriment because they have made a complaint regarding discrimination.

Workplace disability discrimination is illegal at all stages of the employment, from the application process to pay opportunities and redundancies/dismissals. Employers must take steps to ensure all employees are treated equally under the legislation and that employees with a disability don’t face an unfair disadvantage in the work environment. This includes making reasonable adjustments to the workplace or the job at hand.

What are reasonable adjustments?

To prevent discrimination in the workplace, all employers are obligated to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability. These adjustments must be considered at all stages of the employment, from recruitment through to contract termination, and should be implemented to ensure the working environment is safe and comfortable for all employees.

To prevent disability discrimination in the workplace, reasonable adjustments may include swapping furnishings or equipment, such as offering an ergonomic chair for employees with back pain or changing a role to minimise client-facing responsibilities for employees with anxiety.  In can also include setting longer time frames in any performance management procedures and lower targets than a non-disabled employee.  Longer triggers before absence management procedures are commenced or warnings issued; as disabled employees may require longer periods of absence.

There are numerous factors which can affect what does and doesn’t count as a reasonable adjustment, including the size of the company, the cost of the adjustments, the health and safety of other employees and the overall practicality of the changes required.

Failing to implement reasonable adjustments could also be considered a form of disability discrimination, so discuss your circumstances with a trusted employment law firm, such as Swan Craig Solicitors, for the most accurate and up-to-date legal advice on the matter.

At Swan Craig Solicitors, our team of highly-qualified employment solicitors have the experience and legal knowledge to assist individuals and businesses with a range of issues, including disability discrimination. For professional legal advice and a friendly approach, get in touch with our team of employment and commercial law specialists today.

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