UK Employers’ Responsibilities Surrounding Disability in the Workplace

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All employees should have the same fundamental employment rights as stated by UK law. 

The Equality Act of 2010 was introduced to further level the playing field in the workplace and across society. It aims to protect people from discrimination and other unfair treatment, whether that be in relation to age, gender, race, disability, and many other factors.

Disability shouldn’t be an issue that prevents someone from doing a job they are capable of doing, and employment rights mean that employers must adhere to these principles throughout the workplace.

Below, we outline the key responsibilities of employers in the UK when it comes to supporting and accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace.

What are employers legally required to do?

The law states that employers must make reasonable changes or adjustments to support workers with disabilities. This is mainly to ensure that disabled workers aren’t at a disadvantage when doing their jobs compared to others.

Examples of adjustments include fitting a ramp to allow wheelchair access, providing specialist equipment to support workers, and allowing reasonable flexibility with working hours. In hazardous work environments, protective measures such as hi-vis jackets and PPE should be provided to all staff already, but any further precautions should be taken to protect disabled workers if need be.

From a wider perspective, it’s against the law for employers to discriminate against anyone because of a disability or any other characteristic. So, reasonable adjustments have to be made, but what areas of employment are actually included in this?

What areas of employment are covered?

Discrimination due to disability is against the law in the entire employment process – from recruitment, interviews, and applications to dismissals, redundancy and disciplinary proceedings.

This means that reasonable steps must be taken to accommodate anyone applying for a job and that decisions before, during, and at the end of employment can’t be made based on a disability.

The same goes for terms of employment such as pay, working hours, progression pathways, and training opportunities. Harassment and bullying because of a disability are also highlighted in the Equality Act, so employers must take appropriate action if these are identified in a workplace environment.

What if employers breach these responsibilities?

Employers that are found to breach these legal obligations can be subject to complaints, employment tribunals, and compensation payouts which can inflict sizeable time and financial costs.

Not to mention the reputational damage that can be done which may have significant impacts on their ability to attract new talent or customers.

Employers must be careful to avoid unfair treatment of anyone from the recruitment stage to the end of the employment cycle – not doing so could result in profound implications for the whole business.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius via Pexels

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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

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