Employers are now under strict pressures to ensure policies and procedures are in place within their company to ensure equal opportunities for all members of staff. As a matter of policy, employees who bring a discrimination claim against their employers do not need the requisite 2 years of continuous employment that is necessary to bring a claim of unfair dismissal.
Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination is the unfavourable treatment of a person because of a protected characteristic; which could be, their sex, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy or disability. Discrimination could also include indirect discrimination; for instance a rule applicable to an entire workforce which has a discriminatory impact on a particular group of employees with a particular protected characteristic.
As this area of law is so far-reaching we have focused on the law concerning disability discrimination in this article. However, it is important that employers adopt a fair approach in dealing with all employees and should make sure that the correct process is followed in offering help and support to those who raise concerns of discrimination in the workplace.
Under the Equality Act 2010, an employee has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantially adverse and long term effect on their ability to carry out their normal day-to-day activities.
Disability discrimination may also arise by association; where an employee is treated less favorably by their employer because they care for a disabled individual.
The duty to consider reasonable adjustments:
An employer who is aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that an employee satisfies the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010, has a duty to consider adjustments as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid any disadvantage the employee is placed under as a result of their disability.
Reasonable adjustments may include:
Changes to an employee’s working environment;
- changes to their desk area,
- where they are situated within the office;
- providing support or health care equipment that may be required.
Changes to an employee’s working day;
- changes to the hours that the employee works;
- home-working or flexible working for a period of time;
- if reasonable, a change in job role and duties;
- a phased return to work for those who have had a pro-longed period of time off work because of their disability.
Help and Support that can be offered to employees:
In certain circumstances it will be appropriate to offer employees the opportunity to seek occupational health support and/or counselling which may help them in dealing with their disability within the workplace. The support may also assist in treating an employee’s disability and enable them to overcome any hurdles they may face within their workplace as a direct result of their disability.
Employers should ensure that all meetings and discussions regarding an employee’s disability and the measures that the employer takes to help and support the employee are recorded and kept on the employee’s file. This is essential when building a defence to any potential claim of discrimination. This will be discussed in more detail in our next article: ‘Top Tips for Employers: Employment Tribunal claims.’
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Tollers’ Employment Team are here to help should you have any queries regarding this article, do not hesitate to contact us on 01604 258558.