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by in Health & Safety, HR - Human Resources

Disability ConfidentAs you will recall from our earlier blog we are active supporters and disseminators of “Disability Confident,” the government scheme designed to help businesses become more confident about employing disabled people and to bridge the disability employment gap.

Unfortunately, surveys like the one recently carried out by the charity Mencap (supporting people with learning disabilities) show that:

  • 79% of employers “agreed having disabled employees helps a company understand its disabled customers better” BUT
  • Only 16% “of respondents felt the government would be successful in halving the disability employment gap”

In accordance with the Equality Act 2010 all employers must make “reasonable adjustments” to support disabled applicants and employees to ensure that they overcome any substantial disadvantages obtaining, maintaining and progressing in their work. Unfortunately, this is one aspect which causes concern for employers as they are often worried about what they will have to do and whether they can afford it.

Working together to understand

Disability confidence starts with understanding the individual disabled person and their needs and therefore it is important that you make the time to do this. Only when you understand the nature of a disability can you work together to decide how you can help. This is particularly true of what the scheme refers to as “hidden impairments,” described as “conditions that are not apparent to others.”

The “myth” of reasonable adjustments

It is important to remember that the duty is to make “reasonable adjustments” so, according to the Government Equalities Office you can take into account factors such as “the cost and practicability of making an adjustment and the resources available to the employer may be relevant in deciding what is reasonable.” (See our coverage of the case of Corry v Merseyrail Electric 2002 Ltd ET/2400795/2015)

In reality many reasonable adjustments can involve little or no cost such as, the scheme suggests:

  • “making changes to a disabled person’s working pattern
  • providing training or mentoring
  • making alterations to premises
  • ensuring that information is provided in accessible formats
  • modifying or acquiring equipment
  • allowing extra time during selection”

Help for employers

Employers often fail to appreciate that there may be help they can source in making those make “reasonable adjustments.”

Employers can contact Jobcentre Plus about the Access to Work scheme which can help them by providing a grant towards at least some of the costs of making any “reasonable adjustments” they are legally obliged to make. Grants are available to include:

  • “special aids and equipment
  • adaptations to equipment
  • travel to and from work
  • communication support at interview
  • a wide variety of support workers”

If the employee has a mental health condition there will also be help to develop a support plan.

Expert organisations

There are also a wealth of organisations, including charities, committed to helping disabled workers obtain and remain in employment. Organisations such as MIND (for mental health conditions) or The National Autistic Society (Autistic spectrum conditions) are always willing to provide a depth of insight into conditions as well as practical advice.

Other employers

The Disability Confident scheme “partners” with employers (such as Asda, Barclays, Honda and Marks and Spencer) who are also committed to employing disabled workers and who are generally willing to share advice with other employers.

With a wealth of help available, make 2016 the year your practice becomes Disability Confident.

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