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Ability in the Workplace: How the Paralympics are Setting an Example

Posted on Sep 06, 2012 by Hayley Anderson  | 0 Comments

(Photo copyright: Will Clayton under 2.0 Creative Commons Attribution Licence)

As the recent Paralympics have proven, a disability can make a person more innovative in overcoming day-to-day issues and any obstacles put in the way of great achievements and success. The ‘can do’ attitude of the Paralympians can be easily translated into a workplace environment and employers should focus more on what disabled people can do in the workplace, rather than what they can’t.

By focusing on key skills and competencies alone, employers can minimise discrimination and ensure that they employ the best person for the job. Employing disabled people with a ‘can do’ attitude can transform the way of thinking in an organisation and can also bring a new perspective to a business, as disabled people will often know more about the services and products that disabled people want and need. A common belief is that disabled people will have lower attendance records than their non-disabled colleagues and be less productive; however the opposite has been proven true. There is also a lower turnover of disabled employees as they often show more loyalty and commitment to their employer. 

The Equality Act 2010 seeks to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of finding a job. The Act requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to remove any barriers stopping a disabled person from finding employment and also to make reasonable adjustment to remove any barriers once they are in the role itself.  There are various different types of adjustments that an employer may consider.These include :

  • Adjustments to Physical Features: e.g. building ramps, stair lifts, installing automatic doors, having printer buttons at waist height, allocating a workstation near to an aisle or disabled toilet to make life easier for a wheelchair user and other changes to the layout of a building.
  • Technological Adjustments: e.g. the provision of software or other adaptive software such speech-to-text software which helps those with dyslexia and those with mobility issues such as arthritis who find writing or typing difficult. The adjustment of equipment can include voice-recording equipment to help those with concentration issues, ergonomic keyboards and workstations to assist desk-based staff with musculo-skeletal issues, Braille keyboards and large-button telephones for people with visual impairments. Colour filters or coloured paper to help those with dyslexia and hearing loops and text-phones can help those with hearing impairments. 
  • Adjustments to Working Patterns: These can be low-cost or no-cost and can be of great help to disabled people. Changing shift patterns and allowing them flexible work time or allowing someone with a speech impediment to communicate by email. 

In order to determine whether adjustments should be made, the reasonableness of the particular adjustment will be considered. Factors which will be taken into account include :

  • the cost of the adjustment;
  • the size of business;
  • the availability of resources;
  • the likely disruption to the business;
  • the effect on other employees;
  • any health and safety implications (a full risk assessment should be carried out);
  • the employee’s length of service (i.e. are they on a fixed term contract?); and
  • the value of the employee to the business and the amount of help and support the employer has already provided to that employee.

If an adjustment is deemed unreasonable then the employer can decide to withdraw a job offer or not appoint the candidate if it would not be possible to employ them otherwise. However, in many cases only minimal adjustments will be required in order for the organisation to be able to employ disabled people and the new insight and set of skills that they will gain, heavily weighs in favour of employing disabled people and focusing not on their disabilities but their ability to do the work. The Paralympics show just how much a disabled person can achieve and how motivated and undeterred they can be. The same goes for the workplace.An employer that implements reasonable adjustments, where required, minimises the risk of disability discrimination claims which will save the organisation costs. Successful employment claims made under the Equality Act 2010 have no upper ceiling on compensation and can also be very costly in terms of legal fees and time spent preparing to defend a claim.Please do not hesitate to get in touch for any advice in relation to disability discrimination or reasonable adjustments. Thank you to Sarah Furrer, our summer placement student, for her assistance in preparing this week’s Employment Blog.

Hayley Anderson

@hayleylanderson hayley.anderson@mbmcommercial.co.uk 0131 226 8200

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