Disability discrimination: many employers fail to ask about reasonable adjustments

Disabled worker
Employers need to do better at closing the UK's but the UK’s continuing “disability gap”, or the poor rate of employment for people with disabilities

Some private-sector employers could be at risk of discriminating against disabled job applicants by failing to ask about reasonable adjustments, Personnel Today research suggests.

At all stages of the recruitment process, employers must ensure that their practices and policies do not discriminate against disabled applicants and must consider any reasonable adjustments that may be required.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must not ask applicants questions about health or disability before making a job offer, except for certain permitted reasons. The Act does allow questions to be asked for the purpose of establishing whether or not any reasonable adjustments should be made during the recruitment process.

But many private-sector employers fail to ask about required adjustments at all. Across the private sector, one employer in five does not ask about required adjustments.

This figure rises to nearly one in three among small and medium-sized organisations within the sector. A further one in three private-sector employers seeks information on adjustments after an offer of employment is made.

In contrast, public-sector employers are significantly more likely than their private-sector counterparts to ask applicants about required adjustments at the start of the job application process, either via job ads, application forms, or application information supplied to candidates.

XpertHR employment law editor Madeleine Graham comments: “Employers should take the initiative during recruitment to avoid falling foul of the duty to make reasonable adjustments. It is good practice to ask all applicants if they need any reasonable adjustments when inviting them for interview.”

While some employers are not doing all they can to accommodate disabled job applicants, disability policies are commonplace in 2014. Nearly nine in 10 employers have a formal disability policy in place.

The most common arrangement is for disability issues to be covered as a diversity strand within the main organisational disability policy. More than half of organisations with a disability policy in place cite this approach.

A further one organisation in five said that disability issues are covered by their main employment policy document, while one in eight operates a standalone disability policy.

Across the whole economy, one organisation in seven has no formal disability policy in operation. This situation is more common in the private sector, where around one employer in six does not have a disability policy, compared with around one in 10 in the public sector.

The data draws on responses to poll questions from 1,140 HR professionals answering live poll questions during a recent Personnel Today webinar on demystifying disability discrimination law, which is now available on demand.

XpertHR Benchmarking subscribers can access and drill down into the full results of the survey and generate bespoke reports on how their organisation compares.

2 Responses to Disability discrimination: many employers fail to ask about reasonable adjustments

  1. Jules Smith 26 Nov 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I am very concerned that this article appears to be suggesting that potential employers should breach Section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 by asking applicants about any disability or health-related question BEFORE making recruitment decisions. Yes, there are instances where it is appropriate to ask NOT about any disability BUT to request that any specific requirements might be appropriate with respect to the interview (but only after a decision has been made as to who to invite for interview). The balance between Sections 20 and 60 are potentially problematic and need careful consideration.

  2. Ben Runcorn, Equal Approach 27 Nov 2014 at 9:29 am #

    While Madeline Graham is right that employers should “ask all candidates if they require reasonable adjustments when inviting them for interview”, employers should be asking candidates if they need reasonable adjustments at the beginning of the recruitment process, long before they consider inviting them for interview. How can candidates with disabilities be expected to perform at their best in the application stage without the reasonable adjustments they need?

    A recent survey sponsored by Equal Approach “Actions Speak Louder than Words” found that 73% of recruiters ask candidates if they need reasonable adjustments at the application stage, with this increasing to 81% at interview stage.