Earlier this year, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton called on retailers to acknowledge the advantages of hiring disabled workers.
With approximately 123,000 vacancies in the retail and wholesale sector, disabled workers can help fill these positions. However, there is a widespread misconception that when taking on disabled employees, you will need to pay a high price for reasonable adjustments.
However, the truth is that many reasonable adjustments won’t cost you a penny or will cost only a trivial amount, with little disruption to your business.
Take some of the following examples of free or low cost reasonable adjustments for disabled employees:
- Providing a nearby parking space
- Providing a stool behind the shop counter so that an employee can sit if struggling to be on their feet
- Allowing the employee to work flexibly so they can have additional breaks to deal with fatigue
- A phased return to work after a period of absence
- Changing their equipment, for instance, providing a larger screen for someone who is visually impaired.
What is considered ‘reasonable’ in the circumstances?
The Statutory Code of Practice states that some of the factors which should be considered when determining what is a reasonable step for an employer to take are:
- Whether taking any particular steps would be effective in preventing the substantial disadvantage
- The practicability of the step
- The financial and other costs of making the adjustment and the extent of any disruption caused
- The extent of the employer’s financial or other resources
- The availability to the employer of financial or other assistance to help make an adjustment (such as advice through Access to Work)
- The type and size of the employer.
Cost is one of the factors to consider when thinking about reasonableness, but not the only one. Ultimately, what is considered ‘reasonable’ will depend on the individual circumstances of the case.
The Code says that even if an adjustment is expensive, it could still be cost-effective, for example, if you compare the cost of the reasonable adjustment to the costs of recruiting someone new and having to train them.
"Ultimately, what is considered ‘reasonable’ will depend on the individual circumstances of the case."
Can you get some help?
There is a government scheme called Access to Work which may be able to assist with costs.
Disabled employees have so much to offer your organisation. Rather than worrying about the cost, you should give serious thought to how to remove or minimise disadvantages in the workplace so they can flourish at work.
Remember that the definition of ‘disability’ under the Equality Act is wider than you may first think.
In fact, the worker only needs to show that they suffer from a long term (i.e. 12 months or more) physical or mental impairment which has a substantial (i.e. more than trivial) effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
A person will automatically meet the definition if they have cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis, but if they have other conditions, such as stress or depression, this may be deemed disabled for the purposes of the Act. To discuss this more detail, seek Employment Law Advice from our Employment Law Advisers. They can navigate you through this complex area of law.