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How to Prevent Multi-Million Pound Discrimination Claims

13 Mar 2020

This week saw the Department or Work and Pensions under scrutiny on Panorama for the compromise of disability-related claims in the sum of close to £1m. The DWP is geared towards helping people with disabilities get back into work.

Our best advice is to take steps to avoid that million-pound claim. Statistically, people with a disability make up 22% of the UK population – more than one in five. People managing a disability are some of the most vulnerable people in our society which means they get more protection than non-disabled employees under the law.

Diversity is the buzzword and inclusion is key. No one wants to see a white middle-aged male boardroom in modern business. Globally we now appreciate that harnessing people from diverse ages, backgrounds and abilities secures a wider perspective on the marketplace demand and supply and better serves our customer and client base. The organisational attitude of compassionate curiosity, diversity and inclusion comes from the top down in any organisation irrespective of size. Leaders and decision-makers are role models. Collaborative management with vision, compassion, thought, values and action brings balance and style in decision making.

It is understandable that employers refuse to include people with disabilities for fear of getting it wrong but failing to get an education about that is inexcusable. Leaders and decision makers ought to be alive to the possibility that their own unconscious bias towards disability and their ego can affect their decision making without them realising it so it is important that they reflect upon, and cleanse their decisions of, the unconscious bias which may be underlying their decisions and their communications. After that drafting comprehensive policies to promote equality and diversity in the workplace are crucial. An employer should invest in communication training for all employees so they may strive to keep channels of communication open between them.
We have put together 10 things you can do as an employer to help you diversify and worst-case scenario avoid ending up at the Employment Tribunal.

10 tips & facts for employers

  1. An employee is not required to disclose his or her disability to an employer at the start of the employment relationship. Many employees adopt strategies to cope with managing a disability and keep this private for various reasons.
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  3. Pay attention to reasonable adjustments. If an employee seeks reasonable adjustments at work, it means they already understand they can do the work required of them as efficiently as an employee without a disability, but they need support and adaptions from their employer to make that happen. The employee is usually best placed to know the type of adjustment that they need in order to work and to maximise productivity for the employer organisation.
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  5. Take the time to understand your employee’s needs. It is both right and reasonable in this situation that the employer will be able to secure information from the employee to be able to understand the nature of the disability, its impact on the employee in the workplace and the type of reasonable adjustments required to alleviate the disadvantage caused to the employee.
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  7. The disability the employee is required to manage might be environment-specific meaning the disability does not affect them outside of work.
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  9. The obligation to make adjustments arises when the employer has actual or implied notice of the employee’s disability. If an employer does not understand the obligation to an employee with a disability or what reasonable adjustments are information is readily available from national organisations dealing with disability. Find out more.
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  11. Train your staff. All employees and employers ought to understand why an employer is permitted to hire an employee because he or she is disabled.
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  13. With respect to data and privacy an employer must keep information about an employee’s disability confidential unless the employer has consent in writing from the employee to disclose his or her disability. Use words or phrases such as ‘disability’ or “employee managing a disability”. Do not use words or phrases which suggest a person is completely unable e.g. “handicapped,” “differently-abled,” “crippled’ even if the person with the disability describes themselves thus. Employers should be brave enough to ask an employee about their perception of the workplace and how they would wish to be addressed or supported.
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  15. Employees can ask for reasonable adjustments later on in their employment. If a disability is not declared at the outset of employment that is not a bar to the employee’s disclosure of a disability or a request for reasonable adjustments to enable them to work at a later date if circumstances change or the need for reasonable adjustment arises.
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  17. An employer should consider and regularly review whether to train staff with respect to disability or indeed a specific employee’s disability. This might simply mean you ask the person how work life is and what can be done to support them at work.
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  19. Employers ought to remain alive to the fact that an employee may bring a claim for disability discrimination while they remain employed.

 
Get in touch to arrange a call with one of our employment solicitors, or find out more with our employment law for employers page.

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Written by Kerry Wilson

Kerry is a consultant solicitor who specialises in employment law. She qualified as a solicitor in 1996, and uses her experience to offer a more holistic approach to the resolution of conflict in the workplace.

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