TUC warns against misuse of disability laws

Workplace
health and safety risks should never be used as an excuse for not employing
disabled people, according to a TUC briefing.

‘Disability
and safety working together’ sets out how union members and representatives can
ensure workplace health and safety policies and assessments do not discriminate
against disabled people.

Despite
the legal protection of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, measures
designed to protect staff from harm are often used in a way that discriminates
against disabled people and excludes them from the workplace.

Health
and safety laws require employers to make reasonable adjustments to remove
workplace health risks for disabled staff members, rather than simply remove or
exclude them.

The
TUC briefing includes examples of disability discrimination in the workplace on
safety grounds:

Wheelchair
users are often refused jobs because they would not be able to escape buildings
during a fire or ‘may get in the way’ of colleagues trying to escape

People
with conditions such as asthma or a genetic disposition to develop sickle-cell
anaemia being refused certain types of employment on the false basis that their
disability will stop them from working safely

Disability-related
absence being regarded as sickness absence – with knock on effects for
disciplinary procedures, performance reviews and references

TUC
General Secretary John Monks said: "Safety is a poor excuse for
discriminating against disabled people and it is not allowed by the law. The
law requires employers to remove the risks to people, not remove the people who
may be at risk."

Companies
found to be in breach of the Disabilities Discrimination Act could find
themselves hit by unlimited fines.

By Quentin Reade

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