If one of your employees has a disability or suspect that they might, you have a duty of care. You must consider their disability and you may need to tailor adjustments for them at work.
Factors that need to be considered are what effect may the disability have on an employee’s ability to carry out their work, rather than the nature of the disability. Such as, if an employee has back pain, it should be managed in the same way as a disability if the effect on the individual is substantial and long-term. This process is called making workplace adjustments.
Making workplace adjustments under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable changes to the workplace environment or working arrangements if they make it difficult for a disabled person to do his or her job. However, you should always ask each employee you manage what would make it easier for them to do their job, not just those who have told you they have a disability.
Companies can use schemes such as access to work. This scheme is government funded and provides financial assistance towards the costs of workplace adjustments. The funding can be used towards a support worker, equipment at work, or travel to work if public transport cannot be used. The funding available depends on the size of the organisation.
Ms A Baker v House of Commons Commission
You may have seen this case being a highlight via all new sectors, showing Ms Baker winning a discrimination case over workplace adjustments.
Ms Baker was subject to disciplinary action after she asked colleagues not to use her desk as a hot seat because it was specifically set up for her disability, the tribunal found.
Ms Baker was off for a short period of absences and left a note to her colleagues asking them not to use her desk as she would need to spend time trying to readjust.
The management team following up via email inviting Ms Baker to a disciplinary meeting.
The tribunal found the Respondent victimised the Claimant and subjected her to
discrimination arising from disability when it commenced disciplinary action against the Claimant for leaving a polite note on her desk asking staff to refrain from using her workspace/equipment as a hot desk on 27 September 2018.
If you feel that you could support your colleagues more internally or unsure if you should be doing more, contact us at the HRX for advice on next steps.