The do’s and don’ts – what is your legal responsibility as an employer?
Disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
There is no obligation for an employee to disclose to you that they have autism or have any disability for that matter. If they do however, you have a legal obligation to support them.
Legally, you can only ask a job applicant whether they have a disability if it is for specific reasons which are to:
- prevent health and safety risks
- avoid disability discrimination
- monitor the number of disabled people in the organisation
If you ask job applicants to complete any equality and diversity monitoring questions during the recruitment stage and ask them to confirm if they are disabled, it must be on a separate / detachable form and be anonymous.
You can ask all job applicants if they want to disclose a disability and whether they require any reasonable adjustments to help them during the recruitment process.
During the interview process you can ask health-related questions but only for these reasons:
- to identify if someone can do an essential part of the job – for example climb ladders
- to complete a health check after offering someone a job, if it is a legal requirement for example, an eye test to drive a lorry
- to support a disadvantaged or under-represented group using positive action
- if having a specific disability is essential for the job
You cannot health check certain people. To ask a specific person to complete a check, in a silo, could amount to disability discrimination. It either is or is not a part of your recruitment process.
It is a common misconception that employees with autism or a disability require expensive modifications, however most reasonable adjustments will be free or inexpensive. Changes to work scheduling and routines can often be made to Support and retain people.
Where you are concerned about the costs involved you can consider Access to Work which is provided through the Job Centre. This can be utilised where someone needs support or adaptations beyond the reasonable adjustments which an employer is legally obliged to provide under the Equality Act.
Engaging employees with a disability or autism could appear daunting but in reality, the key is to treat people with dignity and respect and to understand how you can best support them to deliver their role. This is how we should manage all our employees.
You may have roles that more closely suit employees with autism, or a specific disability and fear of engaging people could limit your opportunity to thrive in business.
Employing the right people in the right roles can ultimately reduce staff turnover, increase productivity, and achieve greater profitability. Having a workforce that reflects your client base and community brings with it an instant ability to understand and enhance your services or products.
Here are our top tips for recruiting and managing employees:
- Review your job adverts and job descriptions to make sure they ask for necessary skills only. You may be asking for skills that you don’t actually need which limits the talent pool.
- Make sure you give adequate space for candidates to tell you about their disability and the adjustments they may need to access the recruitment process and role itself.
- Take the time to understand your job applicant / employee and how they are affected by their disability or autism, if they declare it and how you can support them.
- Once employed, check in with them regularly to keep up to date with their needs. These may change over time.
- Be clear about expectations and provide structured training in the role. Build in breaks and opportunities for employees to seek support.
- Provide sensitive but direct feedback; giving clear direction. Ensure that you give positive feedback also.
- Make assumptions about an employee’s capabilities or needs. Meet with them regularly to ensure you understand how to best support them to deliver for you.
Remember to take all the steps that you can as an employer to protect people with a disability from discrimination, harassment, or victimisation. If you would like to know more about how to manage such situations or want to be more creative with the makeup of your workforce, please do get in touch.
Employing disabled people and people with health conditions – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
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