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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Employment rights and the Disability Discrimination Act

Disabled workers share the same general employment rights as other workers, but there are also some special provisions for them under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). One important aspect of this is the right to reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

The Disability Discrimination Act

Under the DDA, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people for a reason related to their disability, in all aspects of employment, unless this can be justified. The Act covers things like:

  • application forms
  • interview arrangements
  • proficiency tests
  • job offers
  • terms of employment
  • promotion, transfer or training opportunities
  • work-related benefits such as access to recreation or refreshment facilities
  • dismissal or redundancy

Reasonable adjustments in the workplace

Under the DDA, your employer has a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' to make sure you're not put at a substantial disadvantage by employment arrangements or any physical feature of the workplace.

Examples of the sort of adjustments your employer should consider, in consultation with you, include:

  • allocating some of your work to someone else
  • transferring you to another post or another place of work
  • making adjustments to the buildings where you work
  • being flexible about your hours - allowing you to have different core working hours and to be away from the office for assessment, treatment or rehabilitation
  • providing training or retraining if you cannot do your current job any longer
  • providing modified equipment
  • making instructions and manuals more accessible
  • providing a reader or interpreter

Things to consider at work

You can play an active role in discussing these arrangements with your employer. You might also want to encourage your employer to speak to someone with expertise in providing work-related help for disabled people, such as an occupational health adviser.

Issues for you both to consider include:

  • how effective will an adjustment be?
  • will it mean that your disability is slightly less of a disadvantage or will it significantly reduce the disadvantage?
  • is it practical?
  • will it cause much disruption?
  • will it help other people in the workplace?
  • is it affordable?

You may want to make sure that your employer is aware of the Access to Work programme run by Jobcentre Plus. Through this programme, employers can get advice on appropriate adjustments and possibly some financial help towards the cost of the adjustments.

Redundancy

Your employer cannot select you for redundancy because you are disabled or for any reason relating to your disability. If your employer is consulting about any future redundancies, they should take reasonable steps to make sure you are included in the consultations.

Your employer must also make reasonable adjustments to any selection criteria they create for selecting employees for redundancies, to make sure the criteria do not discriminate against disabled employees. For example, a reasonable adjustment for your employer to make could be discounting disability-related sickness absence when using attendance as part of their redundancy selection scheme.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a good source of advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against at work or elsewhere. It can also help if you think you have been discriminated against and want to lodge a claim at an Employment Tribunal.

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