Understanding Disability and Employment Law
If you are a disabled person in the workplace, it is important to know your rights, above all else so you don’t become a victim of discrimination. IT jobs are as responsible for a fair working place as jobs in any other industry.
Regardless of your position, your employer must offer you a fair, balanced workplace with any reasonable and necessary provisions you need to carry out your job.
Disabled employees may not be fully aware of their workplace rights however, so this article will serve to bring to light what employers can and cannot do regarding disabled people in the workplace.
To combat discrimination in the workplace, the Equality Act came into effect in 2010. The Equality Act 2010 states that an employer cannot:
- Treat a disabled person with less favour just because they are disabled, which is known as direct discrimination
- Indirectly discriminate against a disabled person without a fair and balanced reason
- Directly discriminate or harass a person because they are associated with someone with a disability
- Directly discriminate or harass anyone who is wrongly thought to be disabled
- Victimise an employee
In other words, a disabled person must be treated with the same respect as a person without a disability, unless there is a fair reason for not doing so, for example they are not doing their job properly.
The Act also places limitations on when a recruiter can enquire about an applicant’s health or disability, which helps to maintain a disabled applicant’s rights against discrimination so they are not denied a job because of their disability.
Indeed, when applying for a job employers can only ask about your health and/or enquire as to whether you have disability to ascertain if you:
- Are able to take part in an assessment
- Require any reasonable adjustments in a selection process
- Can perform tasks that are essential to the job
Additionally, employers may ask about disability to monitor diversity among people applying for jobs, if it is a job requirement to have a disabled employee, or for the purpose of national security checks.
Questions for any other reason are not allowed, and a disabled applicant is able to tell the employer that a question is not allowed if it goes against the aforementioned criteria.
The Act also states that an employer has to make reasonable changes for disabled applicants and employees so that a disabled person is not at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled employees and applicants. This can include wheelchair ramps or modifications to a workstation – so it even applies if you work as a software engineer.
Reasonable adjustments also cover changing your working hours or supplying an extra aid, such as adapted equipment. The Act is in place to ensure that disabled people are not only employed but also given the facilities they need to do their job to their best of their ability.
The Equality Act 2010 also states that a person cannot be made redundant just because they are disabled. Of course, a disabled person can be made redundant just as any employee can be, but it has to be for a fair reason such as cutting down staff or because the job he or she is doing is not being completed to a satisfactory standard.
Firing staff members on the sole basis of their physical health contravenes the Act and employers must even make reasonable adjustments, such as discounting absences due to disability-related sickness, when employing attendance as a reason for redundancy. If you are disabled and miss work as a result of it, any redundancy or unfair treatment would be considered as being treated unfavourably because of a disability, and is prohibited by law.
The Act is in place to maintain a healthy working environment and to protect disabled people from discrimination. If you think you have been discriminated against based on your disability, you are able to complain or take action against your employer.