Preventing disability discrimination in the workplace

Is your workplace equipped to adapt to the needs of disabled employees and help them thrive? Disability comes in many different forms. To create an inclusive and accessible culture, it’s important to understand how different abilities require different adjustments.

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Preventing Disability Discrimination in The Workplace - Tell Jane

How to make your workplace more accessible

It is a legal requirement to provide reasonable adjustments when necessary for an employee to perform their job. Reasonable adjustments can cover a wide range of scenarios depending on individual circumstances, and provide a starting point to make your organisation more inclusive and equitable across the board.

For example, does your public-facing website follow best practices for accessibility? Can you implement flexible policies that normalise different working patterns? Cultivating a culture of trust and care, where mental health and physical wellbeing are openly discussed and prioritized, will help build respect and understanding, enabling your employees to ask for what they need to do their best work.

Reasonable adjustments may include:

  • Physical alterations to the workplace (such as installing ramps)
  • Providing necessary equipment (such as adapted desks, chairs and computer technologies)
  • Making information available in different formats (such as subtitling video content or including text descriptions of images)
  • Allowing for different working patterns (such as flexible or part-time hours, regular breaks or working from home)
  • Providing support, training or mentorship
  • Adapting roles and responsibilities to accommodate impairments

How is disability defined?

The Equality Act defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” This covers a lot of different circumstances, from mobility or sensory issues to learning disabilities to chronic illnesses.

Impairments can be visible or invisible; they can be present from birth or acquired later in life; and they can have very different impacts depending on the context. It is also worth noting that some people who don’t personally identify as disabled may still be legally protected under this category.

Disability activists often talk about the social model of disability, which argues that people are disabled less by their individual impairments and more by the systemic social barriers that limit them.

By taking physical and neurological differences into account and making our workplaces more accessible, the playing field can be levelled so that all employees are able to fulfil their full potential.

What is Disability Discrimination in The Workplace - Tell Jane

What is disability discrimination in the workplace?

Disability discrimination can involve unfair treatment during the hiring process or as an employee. Examples include withdrawing a job offer after a disability is disclosed, denying a disabled employee opportunities based on assumptions about what they can or can’t do, and ableist bullying or harassment by colleagues.

Discrimination can also occur indirectly when company policies or practices unfairly disadvantage disabled employees – for example, when buildings aren’t physically accessible or training materials aren’t available in different formats. It’s also against the law to discriminate against someone because of their association with a disabled person (such as a child, parent or partner).

As an employer, you have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates and employees, and any actions you take (for example, disciplinary procedures or changes to roles) must take an employee’s disabilities into account. The best way to do this is to listen and be empathetic towards individual needs.

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