Reasonable Adjustments & the DDA
The first mention of DDA – the Disability Discrimination Act – and employers are often far too cautious about dealing with any issues in the workplace; this approach is regularly encouraged by employment law advisors telling employers that they can’t take formal action against disabled employees (which can be a problem, given a wide range of employees could be defined as disabled under the DDA), and certainly can never dismiss them. This is a common misconception held among employers, fuelled by HR & employment law advisors only ever reminding businesses of the DDA (the Disability Discrimination Act), without offering advice on how to handle these cases.
At the Employment Law Clinic, we believe in honest, frank, objective information, and fair treatment of all – including the employer. We do not discourage employers from taking firm & appropriate management action, and support our clients in dealing with disabled staff as necessary & in accordance with the law.
While there is an element of caution that needs to be extended to any staff that are classed as disabled as per the Disability Discrimination Act (see Section 1, DDA 1995, Meaning of “disability” and “disabled person”), the law does still allow employers to take action where appropriate.
Reasonable adjustments need to be made to policies & practices when applied to disabled staff, and these will normally resolve the problems, for the good of all. Nonetheless, occasionally even with reasonable adjustments, some employees’ attendance or performance will simply be inadequate, and employers will then need to consider taking action.
As a legal ruling is necessary to decide whether someone is disabled for the purposes of the Act, Occupational Health Advisors & others can only ever offer an opinion (although this can’t be entirely relied upon by the employer where they follow this, it should help to mitigate any costs awarded) on what the courts would decide.
In most cases, reasonable adjustments will be more than sufficient to address any problems – many businesses don’t encounter any difficulties at all, and even seek out disabled staff for the value they can bring to a business.
On those occasions where reasonable adjustments fail to improve (or at least sufficiently) the attendance or performance of staff, they should be treated in the same way as all other staff, with the disciplinary process followed as normal. Employers will need to exercise caution, but only to satisfy themselves that reasonable adjustments have been made, after which time the staff should be treated as others would.
There are no hard & fast rules on what reasonable adjustments are – each case needs to be judged on its merits. \”Reasonable\” also has to be considered in the context of the business, and what might be reasonable for a large multi-national company will not be the same for a small family business.
Some reasonable adjustments that could be appropriate in most businesses include flexible working. This may be a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee that has difficulties that could impact their work at certain times of the day (perhaps an employee with breathing issues, with regular problems in the mornings or not able to cope with air pollution from rush-hour traffic); if the position required the employee to perform during those hours though (the employment involves morning (not anytime of day) deliveries), the adjustment would not be reasonable, and action against the employee could be justified if there is no alternative employment available.
Allowing for more sick leave than normal before taking formal action would also be appropriate for a disabled employee. This does not mean allowing unconditional sick leave, only a reasonable extra amount of time-off in the circumstances of the employment & the business.
For a free initial consultation, or further assistance & advice on making reasonable adjustments that are appropriate & balanced and how to cope if these fail to address the problems, contact Employment Law Clinic now… .