Citizens Advice Cymru has released information which they say shows many people with disabilities are being prevented from working because employers are unwilling to make reasonable demands. In an interview with the BBC, policy officer Lindsey Kearton said lack of workplace support could have a ‘huge impact’ on the mental and physical health of those affected.
Emma O’Leary is an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group. She says: “Today’s report from Citizens Advice Cymru has highlighted that there are still many employers who are potentially committing disability discrimination, thereby falling foul of the Equality Act. The Act is intended to safeguard those with a ‘protected characteristic’ from being treated less favourably on the grounds of that characteristic, whether it be age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or disability. When an employee is disabled, the Act places an obligation on the employer to make reasonable adjustments and this should not be under estimated.
“Every avenue should be explored and considered by the employer before a decision is made that the company cannot accommodate the suggested adjustment. The first step is to obtain a medical opinion in order to fully appraise the company of the condition and prognosis and what adjustments may be required to avoid disability discrimination; the adjustment may be as simple as buying a specialist chair to enable the employee to do their job. If that chair is not inordinately costly then it would be remiss of the employer not to consider the purchase.
“On the other hand the required adjustment may be that the employee needs to work part time, perhaps their disability is a mental illness that is exacerbated by full time working. If the employee is a key worker in a senior position then that adjustment might not be sustainable for the company as it might be if the employee occupied a less onerous role. What is a reasonable adjustment for one employer might not be reasonable for another taking into account costs and the size and administration of the company. What is important though is to show serious and meaningful consideration of the adjustments required.
“That requirement to make reasonable adjustments starts at the application stage. If you receive an application from a prospective candidate for a job it is advisable to enquire as to whether any adjustments are required for the interview should they be shortlisted. It is not advisable to reject that application solely on the basis that the response reveals the candidate does have a disability. The Cymru CAB report recommends the Access to Work scheme to employers and certainly this should be a consideration as it will assist the employer is assessing what adjustments are required and whether or not they would be reasonable.”