There are many practical measures that help disabled workers do their jobs effectively. Employers must take these measures to comply with the law.
Occupational health experts can give employers guidance on how to proceed. A government agency also supplies advice and money.
There are three laws that apply to employers and their disabled workers.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, employers must protect the health, safety and welfare of disabled workers.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, employers must help disabled workers by making reasonable adjustments to a workplace and to working conditions. These adjustments must ensure that Disabled Workers have the same treatment as able-bodied employees.
The final law is the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002. Employers must make sure that workstations, rest areas, lavatories, stairs, passageways and doors allow for the needs of disabled workers.
The DDA defines a disabled person. The Act goes into a lot of detail, but the main point is that a person has a disability if he or she has a mental or physical impairment. This impairment must affect his or her ability to do normal daily activities substantially and in the long-term.
When an employer has a disabled worker, there may be some obvious actions to take. One example is improving access to a building. But an employer should never take anything for granted.
It’s good practice to seek a health and safety assessment. An occupational health and safety advisor is often the best person for this. But even with an assessment, there can be problems in achieving the best outcome.
Access to Work Scheme
This is when the government’s Access to Work scheme may be able to help. The scheme gives both the employer and the disabled person advice. The scheme can also pay for special equipment at work, adaptations to the workplace, and a support worker.
The employer has to buy any equipment and pay for workplace changes upfront. The employer then claims the money back from Access to Work.
Access to Work covers 100% of costs if a disabled worker has been in a job for less than six weeks; is about to start a new job; or is self-employed. The scheme covers part of the costs if a disabled worker has been working for an employer for six weeks or more.
The practical measures begin with travelling to and from work. A disabled worker may need help with transport. An employer should also ask if a disabled person would find it easier to travel outside the rush hour.
In some instances, regular commuting is impossible. If so, an employer should discuss whether a disabled person could work from home.
Another common issue is time off work. A disabled person may have medical appointments to attend for assessment and treatment. An employer needs to take account of these in a compassionate way and not put a disabled worker under any pressure.
Ideally, an employer must make workplace adaptations in advance of a disabled person starting or resuming work. These adjustments depend on the nature of the disability and the layout of the work environment. Matters to consider are a disabled toilet; ramps for wheelchairs; improved lighting for those with eyesight problems; and visual signs for the deaf.
An employer must also look at any need for modified chairs and workstations, and for changes to IT equipment. The latter may include the use of voice recognition software.
With some of these changes, a disabled worker may need training. An employer should arrange this as promptly as possible.
The issue of change doesn’t end with the arrival of a Disabled Person in the Workplace. The needs of disabled workers may alter over time.
To monitor this situation, employers must arrange regular risk assessments of all disabled staff. In this way, practical measures can remain up-to-date.