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Disability Discrimination: Reasonable Adjustments. Research by a top HR magazine suggests that some private-sector employers could be at risk of discriminating against disabled job applicants by failing to ask about reasonable adjustments.
But what does this actually mean to employers?
When recruiting, it is vital that at all stages of the recruitment process, an employer must ensure that their practices and policies do not discriminate against disabled applicants. Also, they must consider any reasonable adjustments that may be required, such as:
- Do they need a parking space near the door?
- Do they need to be near toilets?
- Do they need a different desk or chair?
- Altering an employee’s hours of work
- Doing things another way – e.g. allowing someone with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking
- Making physical changes – e.g. installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or an audio-visual fire alarm for a deaf person
- Letting a disabled person work somewhere else – e.g. on the ground floor for a wheelchair user
- Changing their equipment – e.g. providing a special keyboard if they have arthritis
- Allowing employees who become disabled to make a phased return to work – e.g. working flexible hours or part-time
- Offering employees training opportunities, recreation and refreshment facilities
These are just a few of the reasonable adjustments that can be made.
Asking the question…
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must not ask applicants questions about health or disability before making a job offer, except for certain permitted reasons, (details available upon request).
The Act does allow questions to be asked for the purpose of establishing whether or not any reasonable adjustments should be made during the recruitment process. When inviting an applicant for an interview they should be asked, (either by telephone or in writing), if any reasonable adjustments are needed for them to attend.
Matthew from Consensus HR explains: “Able bodied people can sometimes forget that what they do on a day-to-day basis may vary differently or simply not possible for somebody with a disability. Examples include walking up and down stairs, standing for long times or how frequently they need to visit the toilet.”
Employers must not make assumptions that there is no need for any reasonable adjustments to be made. It is up to the employer to find out from the applicant during the recruitment process so that they can offer reasonable adjustments if needed. Some applicants prefer not to disclose a disability. In these cases, the employer cannot be expected to make adjustments until it becomes apparent in the workplace or the applicant decides to inform the company.
Research from Personnel Today shows that one employer in five does not ask about required adjustments. This figure rises to nearly one in three among small and medium-sized organisations within the sector. A further one in three private-sector employers seek information on adjustments after an offer of employment is made.
In contrast, public-sector employers are significantly more likely than their private-sector counterparts to ask applicants about required adjustments at the start of the job application process. This is achieved via job advertisements, application forms, or application information supplied to candidates.
Employers should always aim to build a trusting relationship with their teams and demonstrate that regardless of a person’s sex, age, colour, disability (to name a few) all individuals are valued. By building this trust and confidence, the employee will feel able to discuss these core areas should the need occur.