Legal advice implies disabled staff are a burden to employ

Oh Vanessa, is this a case of disability-related prejudice? (Legal opinion, Personnel Today, 4 December).

I was dismayed to read that reasonable adjustments ‘could be a costly process for the employer, involving several meetings, assessments and the purchase of equipment’, but that the reasonable employer should not begrudge the outlay ‘where the disabled worker works hard and has a good attendance record’.

The (hopefully unintended) impression given is that disabled people are a burden on the employer, and that they are off sick more often or, worse still, will keep going on sick leave. In fact, disabled people are generally less likely to go off sick than their non-disabled colleagues, and most reasonable adjustments require only minor changes in the working environment.

As for the ‘many disabled people who do not let their disability affect their work’, this suggests that disabled people have a choice about the impact of their disability and the adjustments they need to enable them to give their best. I don’t think so.

If individuals are not capable of working, then the employer has a remedy – performance management and capability procedures. These apply to disabled and non-disabled people alike, and there should be no presumption that there is an automatic negative correlation between disability and capability.

Linda Linehan
Abbeville Associates

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