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Employing people with disabilities and health problems

On 24th July 2014 the Department for Work and Pensions published new guidelines on recruiting and employing people with disabilities and people with health problems. It specifically focuses on communicating the advantages of employing these people and offer suggestions on how you can comply with legislation in this area.

A person who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term effect on their ability to do normal daily activities, is deemed to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010.

It is illegal to discriminate against (either directly or indirectly) somebody who has a disability, at work, during the recruitment process or through selecting a worker for redundancy.

Whilst many older people are not classified as disabled the guidelines also take about the opportunities for businesses in recruiting and retaining older people.

Making the recruitment process more accessible

Much of the detail of the guidelines focuses on the concept of “reasonable adjustments”. It is important to note that reasonable adjustments are required, by law, throughout the recruitment process – right from the point of advertising the role. If employers fail to do this they can be taken to a tribunal.

You could consider:

  • Making your job adverts accessible eg. using a font that is easy to read, only listing skills that are vital to the role and providing the contact details of a person within the organisation that can offer more information about the role and discuss any reasonable adjustments that may need to be made.
  • Using the two ticks symbol on your job advertisements will show that you encourage applications from disabled candidates.
  • Confirming where there are any reasonable adjustments need to be made for them to attend interviews or perform the role if offered to them. You should note that it is illegal to ask about an applicant’s health directly until you have offered them a job, although you can confirm whether you could or should provide any reasonable adjustments.

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Reasonable adjustments after employment

Employers often fear the costs of making adjustments to accommodate disabled people and therefore shy away from recruiting them. However, the costs are often low and can be supported by a grant. Access to Work is a scheme specifically designed to aid employers in employing disabled workers.

Reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Changing a disabled person’s working pattern.
  • Providing training or mentoring for a disabled worker.
  • Altering your premises or equipment to aid a disabled worker.
  • Providing important information in accessible formats.
  • Allowing extra time for disabled applicants in tests or interviews

If an employee has become disabled since working for your business or there has been a change in an existing impairment or health condition that makes it harder for them to fulfil their role, the Jobcentre Plus offers advice on how you can retain disabled employees.

Reasonable adjustments also affect the management of performance issues. All employees have a right to fair treatment in the management of performance. Before starting action you must be able to demonstrate that you have made reasonable adjustments to allow the disabled employee to improve their performance. If you don’t, you could be taken to a tribunal.

Advice on specific conditions

There are a number of conditions that employers may not know need to be considered as ‘disabilities’ in this way. The following conditions are included within the guidelines and subject to the same requirements relating to anti-discrimination in recruitment and employment:

  • Mental health – including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder;
  • Hearing impairment – including partial, complete, temporary, permanent and worsening conditions;
  • Visual impairment – including partial, complete, temporary, permanent and worsening conditions;
  • Physical impairments – including amputation, cerebral palsy, injury, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and respiratory disorders;
  • Hidden impairments – including autistic spectrum conditions, dyslexia, learning disabilities

As of recent case law the Attorney General has stated that, in his view, obesity is not a category of disability in its own right and, accordingly, does not attract automatic disability protection. However, he did confirm that there may be circumstances where the impact of obesity is sufficient to lead to disability.

Further guidance

To read the DWP guidance on employing disable people and people with health conditions go to www.gov.uk/government/publications/employing-disabled-people-and-peoplewith-health-conditions/employingdisabled-people-and-people-with-healthconditions

For help with setting in place clear guidelines and policies relating to recruitment and employment contracts contact our Commercial Services team on 0117 9292811. For help with handling disputes on this subject contact James Taylor on 01454 204880.

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