Avoid Discriminating Due to Disability

By Carol Smith
10 Jun 2019

Last month it was found that there had been a massive 37% rise in disability discrimination claims compared to the previous year.

Disability is a protected characteristic, and discriminating against employees with a disability is punishable by law.

That’s why it’s vital to ensure your business actively combats discrimination and takes steps to ensure your workplace is accessible and inclusive.

Avoid Discriminating Due to Disability

What is disability discrimination?

The legal definition of a disability, as stated in the Equality Act 2010, is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out their normal day-to-day activities.

Disability discrimination can take place in many ways, but generally occurs when a worker is treated less favourably because of their disability.

As a discrimination claim can result in an unlimited award from the employment tribunal it is crucial that you know what steps you need to take in order to support any disabled individuals who work for you. 

What can I do?

The first thing you should do is construct an equal opportunities policy relating to disability.

This can reaffirm your company’s commitment to ensuring that disabled employees are not disadvantaged in the workplace, both during the recruitment stage and throughout their employment. It can also be used to inform any disabled employee of what procedures are in place to assist them.

For example, the policy could include information on who they should speak to in regards to any further support they think they may need, such as their line manager.

Corporate responsibility

Companies of all sizes have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments that can help a disabled employee at work.

All of your managers should therefore be fully trained in responding to the specific needs of disabled employees and be aware of the requirement for these adjustments. This may involve making changes to the employee’s working environment, adjusting their workload or bringing in specialist equipment to assist them.

Remember also that what may be reasonable for one employer may not be reasonable for another if they do not have as many resources to complete the adjustment. When considering whether an adjustment is reasonable, you should consider how effective the change will be, how difficult it is to do it, how long it will take and what are the costs are.

Bear in mind, however, that the cost of making such an adjustment will likely be significantly less than a successful discrimination claim for a failure to make reasonable adjustments. Also remember that the employee may be able to receive further help from the government to make these adjustments through the Access to Work grant.

Zero tolerance

You should also maintain a zero tolerance approach to any instances of bullying that takes place and encourage all members of staff to come forward if such instances occur.

By taking this action, you can send a clear message that this conduct will not be tolerated in your company and help to reassure any affected employees that their concerns will be listened to.

Ensuring equal opportunities at work continues to receive much attention and all employers need to be prepared to make changes that supports this.

In addition to the above, all provisions put in place to support disabled employees should be reviewed regularly. For example, you may need to alter adjustments already in place or facilitate re-training of managers if they have handled a situation poorly.

Expert Support

If you need assistance making reasonable adjustments, or are facing any other HR issue, speak to a Croner expert on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Carol Smith

Carol joined Croner in 2001 as an Employment Consultant advising a wide range of clients on all aspects of Employment Law and HR practice. She demonstrates particular expertise in complex disciplinary, grievance matters and reorganisation / redundancy.


Carol Smith

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