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Short Steps

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995: an employer’s responsibilities

Background

 

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone who is disabled in terms of:-

 

·         Recruitment and employment;

·         Access to goods, facilities and services.

 

In addition to this, the DDA was amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, which made it illegal for education providers to discriminate against disabled people.

 

The DDA defines a disability as:-

 

“a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.”

 

‘Mental impairment’ can include learning disabilities and all recognised mental illnesses.

 

Your obligations

 

·         As of October 2004 all employment, regardless of the size of the organisation, is subject to the DDA with the sole exception of the armed forces.

·         You cannot treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason related to their disability without justification.

·         You are legally required to ensure that discrimination does not occur in the workplace and this includes an obligation to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. Here are some examples of ‘reasonable adjustments’ you could make for an employee with a serious mental illness:

-          Providing supervision, e.g. a support worker;

-          Altering working hours, e.g. a person who takes medication, which has side effects worse in the morning, is allowed to start work later in the day;

-          Assigning the disabled person to a different place of work, e.g. allowing home working during a period of rehabilitation;

-          Allowing absence during working hours for rehabilitation assessment or treatment;

-          Allowing time off for counselling sessions.

 

People who have a serious mental illness are often able to manage their illness successfully for most of the time, and having a job is an important part of a holistic approach to recovery (see Hafal’s Recovery Programme). From a business point of view, if one of your employees is diagnosed with a serious mental illness it may well be far more beneficial to you, both financially and in terms of staff morale, to help them to return to work when they feel that they are able. By doing this you will:-

 

·         Save money on extended sick pay, recruitment costs for a replacement and, in some cases, severance pay;

·         Be able to support and retain much-valued employees;

·         Demonstrate to all your staff that you are an inclusive and progressive employee, which in turn increases their loyalty and reduces overall staff turnover.

 

For more information please contact Hafal’s Short Steps project on shortsteps@hafal.org .

 

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