The case of Hargreaves v Department for Work and Pensions provides a useful reminder of what employers should keep in mind when managing an employee with a disability, including the following:

  • Discuss suitable reasonable adjustments at the very first opportunity and seek input from the employee’s treating health professional and occupational health as well as the employee.
  • Consider whether the application of a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ within the organisation, such as rigid working hours, could have the effect of placing a disabled employee at a disadvantage.
  • Be attentive to the changing circumstances of an employee with a disability and open to reassessing the reasonableness of the adjustments.
  • Be open to suspending, extending or restarting a reasonable adjustments ‘trial period’ if an employee’s symptoms or condition is likely to change due to, for example, a change in medication.
  • Be mindful that a disability may affect an employee’s ability to follow a standard process, such as calling a line manager to advise if he or she will be late, and consider whether an alternative process could be possible.
  • Be careful not to reject any recommendations made by a disabled employee’s treating health professional or occupational health without first discussing the reasonableness of their suggestions with them and the employee, and clarifying any points of uncertainty.

In this case, the Tribunal held that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments when it refused a flexible working pattern requested by a disabled individual. The subsequent dismissal was also held to be discriminatory. If the employer has taken into account the above, this outcome could have been avoided.

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