When it comes to disabled workers, you might wring your hands and begin to fret when you think about the 'special arrangements' and 'reasonable adjustments' you'll need to make.
Some employers actually use health and safety law to justify discrimination!
But today I'm going to set the record straight...
What's a disability?
A disability is 'A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out day-to-day activities.'
As you can see, the term disability is incredibly broad. In fact, you can't always tell when someone has a disability, and some employees may choose not to make you aware that they are disabled, particularly where it will not interfere with their ability to do the job. Therefore don't make assumptions or introduce blanket policies, and be aware that disabilities can affect people in very individual ways.
Remember, you are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all
your employees, whether they have a disability or not.
As a business owner you need to tailor your policies to individual needs.
Let's look at common myths surrounding employees with disabilities…
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Myths surrounding employees with disabilities
1. Health and safety provides a legitimate reason for not employing disabled workers.
False. This is not the case. There is no health and safety legislation that would prevent a disabled person finding or staying in employment. Health and safety should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing, or for refusing to make reasonable adjustments.
2. Employing disabled workers is expensive and difficult.
Not true. Many people with disabilities do not require additional assistance to do their job. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure disabled workers aren't seriously disadvantaged when doing their jobs.
Most importantly, many of these adjustments can be simple and straightforward (see below for details.)
3. You need to be registered as disabled to get the adjustments you need to do your job.
False! There is no process requiring registration for disabled people. If you have a disability, your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to do your job. The best way to make sure this happens is to inform your employer of your disability and work with them to identify and consider adjustments that could be put in place to assist you.
Read on for what risk assessment you need to carry out to cater for disabled employees…
Do you want to be fined, jailed or have a criminal record for life?
If an accident occurs in your workplace, and the person dies, you could be charged with culpable homicide, charged penalties of R100 000 or 2 years in jail!
The CEO or Owner of a company is personally accountable for health and safety at work.
Click here for the three things you must prove to establish your innocence.
Risk assessments and disability
All good managers understand just how important a risk assessment is to help protect your workers and your business, as well as ensuring you comply with the law. While there's no requirement to carry out a specific, separate, risk assessment for a disabled person, if you become aware of a worker or a visitor with a disability, you may need to review your existing risk assessment to make sure it covers risks that might be present for that person. Remember, symptoms and severity of symptoms for various conditions may differ greatly from person to person. Risk assessments should be as individual as the people they are designed to protect.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Most employers understand they have a legal duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled workers. Just how you define 'reasonable' varies from case to case.
The aim is to ensure disabled workers have the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as non-disabled people. In many cases, making adjustments will be simple and low cost, such as improving access or layout, adapting work equipment or relocating a workstation, or planning a suitable Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP).
What is reasonable will depend on the size and nature of your business. The most important thing is to keep communication channels open. While workers are under no obligation to reveal their disabilities to an employer, if they do choose to share this information you should make an effort to ensure they feel involved in the adjustment process. After all, disabled or not, nobody enjoys being talked down to!