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Providing an equal platform to disabled employees

Article by Kate Palmer, HR Advice & Consultancy Director

Friday 3 December marked the International Day of Persons with Disability, an awareness event with the aim to mobilise support for greater equality.

1 in 5 of the working-age population in the UK have a disability, including physical ailments and mental health conditions.

The number of disabled people in employment has increased by 1.2 million since 2013. Yet 1 in 3 disabled people still think there is disability prejudice in the UK, despite only 1 in 5 non-disabled people agreeing with them.

It’s time that employers acted to ensure that the 20% of their staff that are affected by disability, are given the tools and facilities to thrive at work.

And – under the Equality Act 2010 – there is a legal duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments in the course of employment for those employees who would otherwise face a substantial disadvantage because of their disability. But what are reasonable adjustments, how can they be made, and what benefits do they bring?

It’s important to bear in mind that reasonable adjustments don’t always come at great expense; there are many small and inexpensive things an employer can do to greatly improve the working conditions of someone with a disability and to promote equality in the workforce.

Employers must evaluate how an employee’s personal situation or health condition impacts them in the workplace and implement measures to remove any subsequent disadvantages it brings.

Essentially, reasonable adjustments aim to provide an equal platform, to allow all employees to work in the same way and have the same chance at success. Adjustments can vary significantly depending on an individual’s needs, but some common ones include amending start/finish times, reducing duties, allowing homeworking, and implementing physical changes, such as supportive equipment, chairs, screens, keyboard/mouse, ramps, handrails etc. It’s always best to have discussions with employees to understand fully their needs, in order to put effective adjustments in place.

For people who have been absent from work, a phased return can be a useful adjustment, to allow them to settle back into the workplace and gradually increase their strength.

Employers who provide effective adjustments for their people benefit from increased satisfaction, motivation, productivity and long-term retention. However, those who fail to give adequate consideration to reasonable adjustments risk tribunal claims being raised against them, including for discrimination, constructive dismissal and unfair dismissal.

    A thought leader on HR and employment law; Kate Palmer is HR Advice and Consultancy Director at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula and the main spokesperson for Peninsula UK. Kate has over 17 years’ experience in all aspects of HR and employment law advice. She develops Peninsula's expert law advisors, ensuring each client gets the answers they need every time they call.

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