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HR Tip: Disability


These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Q: "A number of our employees feel that the Disability Discrimination Act discriminates against healthy people because it requires their employer to give preferential treatment to disabled people. We are inclined to agree. What do you think?"

A: No, you are quite wrong. The Act levels the playing field by helping disabled people compete for and carry out work on equal, not better, terms with more able people. If, for example, several people apply for a vacancy but one would have difficulty carrying out the job because of a mobility problem, you would be required to determine what steps you could take to enable the person to do the job.

This might be by providing wheelchair access or by relocating the work station. If you ascertain that you can make such an arrangement, then you pick the best person for the job. The best way to have your people view the Act is to ask them to consider how they would wish you to treat them if they suddenly lost a leg or became blind.

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One Response

  1. Preferential treatment – ok!
    Although the answer given in the HR Tip is accurate it is worth pointing out that the DDA allows positive discrimination (unlike other discrimination legislation which protects both sexes / all races / all age groups etc) as there isn’t a requirement not to discriminate against people who are not disabled.

    The “reasonable adjustments” that employers are required to make can appear to offer preferential treatment to some disabled staff. For example, there may be an aspect of the work that the disabled job holder cannot undertake which other members of staff may have to cover – which can look like preferential treatment if the task is unpopular.

    The new Disability Equality Duty which comes into force in December requires Public Sector Employers to “take steps to meet disabled peoples needs, even if this requires more favourable treatment” which will add to the impression that disabled people are being given preferential treatment.

    Despite this we need to remember that disabled people have suffered years of discrimination and even with the DDA in force change is painfully slow. For disabled people eliminating discrimination is not the same as creating equality of opportunity because they would still miss out if their disability placed them at a disadvantage.

    Special measures are needed to overcome any disadvantages that a disabled person may face in the work place or they are unlikely to enjoy the same opportunities as the wider population. The real task is help the rest of the work force to understand the issue and accept the measures as fair.

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