We are all entitled to equal opportunity in the workplace. If you want your business to keep going without any legal hitches you had better learn that as soon as possible.
You are a lot more likely to, at some point, have an employee with some form of disability than not. Despite some misguided beliefs, a large portion of people diagnosed with a disability are in employment. Over 45%, in fact.
The sooner you create an accessible workplace that welcomes and accommodates all employees, the better. Here are some of the ways you can do it.
A fair employment process
The first thing you have to ensure is that every employment opportunity in the workplace is open to all involved, including workers with disability.
A good policy and the HR software to support it is a great way to make sure that your recruitment process operates more fairly, for instance.
But it goes beyond just ensuring that jobs are open to anyone who applies for them. Workers with disability are ensured equal access to other opportunities in the work environment including promotion, transfer, training opportunities and the like.
On the other end of things, you need a firm set of policies for justifying and carrying out disciplinary measures and dismissals to avoid being accused of discriminatory practices.
You are not only obligated to ensure fair and equal hiring practices,you are also obligated to make what are called reasonable adjustments to the workplace so that anyone who starts working with a disability or develops one throughout their career can work in an environment that takes into account their personal barriers.
Sites like https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/discrimination-at-work/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/duty-to-make-reasonable-adjustments-at-work-what-must-employers-do/ can offer some examples and lend the important distinction that it’s not just physical disability you must accommodate.
Providing equipment that employees with a physical disability might have, for instance, does count as a reasonable adjustment. But so does ensuring that employees dealing with depression or anxiety aren’t left in customer-facing positions.
You need to understand the barriers your individual employees face and support them, so that they can work around any difficulties.
Changes to the workplace
Of course, the most common adjustments an employer is going to make is the physical changes to the workplace itself. If you welcome customers into your workplace, then these changes become even more essential to ensure you’re not also engaged in discriminatory market practices.
For instance, every business needs to be accessible to people with decreased mobility. It might be as simple as using services like https://www.terrylifts.co.uk/lifts/platform-stairlifts/ to install stair lifts and platforms.
It might involve changes to the building like widening door frames so people with mobility assistance devices like wheelchairs can get through them.
Some understanding goes a long way
We know that you don’t want to be insensitive to employees with a disability. Not only might you risk offending or hurting your employees feelings but going about it in the wrong way could count as a discriminatory practice by itself.
However, it’s important to let disabled employees know that your business is a safe place to discuss any needs for adjustments or barriers they otherwise face.
You need to support the disabled staff at your workplace and an open-door policy is one of the best ways to do it. It’s a good idea to talk to disability organisations and do your research.
You can not only get advice on how to best broach certain topics, you can also get access to funds and other schemes to help employ and accommodate disabled staff.
Educating your employees
Naturally, you’re likely to not be the only person interacting with your staff with disabilities. As https://www.gov.uk/employer-preventing-discrimination/discrimination-during-employment shows, there are many ways one can suffer discrimination in the workplace and it’s not just from employers.
It’s essential that the work environment created by the staff at large is free from discrimination. First, you need to make sure you have a secure and private method of accepting grievances and that you have appropriate disciplinary measures for discriminatory behaviour.
But it’s also a good idea to once again contact disability organisations to see if they offer any training for the workforce. Many forms of discrimination can be purely accidental. While that’s no excuse to allow them, it means that they could easily be prevented through training sessions with your staff.
Talking about and dealing with disability in the workplace might strike some employers with trepidation. You don’t want to be inconsiderate, but the more you put off having these conversations and putting these methods in place, the greater at risk you are of making mistakes that discriminate your employees.