As an employer, you need to make reasonable accommodation for your disabled employees. This may be temporary or permanent, depending on the nature and extent of their disability. Every employer must attend to reasonable accommodation needs when the work environment changes, or the impairment varies, and affects the ability of the employee to perform the core functions of the job.
Definition of a disability
People with disabilities are people who have a long-term or recurring physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits their prospects of entry into, or advancement in, employment.
What does different legislation say about disabled people and work?
There are no health and safety regulations specific to disabled people only. The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) requires employers to protect all workers from the risk of injury or harm at work, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes those who may be affected by their work activities. Under health and safety law, every employer must ensure the health and safety of all their employees, whether they have a disability or not, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Equality law recognises that bringing about equality for disabled people may mean:
- changing the way employment is structured
- the removal of physical barriers, and/or
- providing extra support for a disabled worker.
This is the duty to make reasonable adjustments. The aim of the duty is to make sure that, as far as is reasonable, a disabled worker has the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as a non-disabled person.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in State and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications. This booklet explains the part of the ADA that prohibits job discrimination. This part of the law is enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and State and local civil rights enforcement agencies that work with the Commission.
According to the Law for Persons with Disability, at least five per cent (5%) of the employees of all employers must be individuals with permanent disability. The positions for which permanently disabled individuals are hired cannot impair their performance and cannot exceed their capacity to work. If the disability is not absolute, the employer must provide the employee with a task in accordance with his work capacity or pay a severance payment as though he were dismissed for no just cause.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) advocates, through its general employment policy, for a system that enables all Australians to be competitive in the employment market. While the extent of disability for each person with a disability is unique, ACCI advocates for a diverse workforce in which people participate where they are able to do so.
What is reasonable accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation includes but is not limited to:
- adapting existing facilities to make them more accessible
- adapting existing equipment or acquiring new equipment including computer hardware or software
- re-organising work stations
- changing training and assessment materials and systems
- restructuring jobs so that non-essential functions are reassigned
- providing readers, sign language interpreters or allowing the person with a disability to obtain them for themselves
- adjusting working time and leave
- providing specialised supervision, training and support in the workplace.
Checklist: 17 ways to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled employees
- Ensuring entry and exit points accommodate disabilities, e.g. ramps/lifts/escalators
- Altering work hours or allowing flexi-time
- Time off for treatment
- Offering space for a guide dog
- Installing reader software programme for the computer
- Modifying or purchasing certain equipment that suits your disabled employees
- Modifying how you issue instructions to them
- Allowing for extra training time
- Changing the layout of office furniture, e.g. storage at floor or eye level
- Installing sensors on sliding mechanised doors
- Allowing for ‘assisted devices’ in the workplace, height
- Providing adjustable chairs, special computer mouse, etc.
- Providing a vibrating cell phone
- Installing a loop system for hearing aids for meetings and TVs
- Audio signals for lifts or Braille floor numbering
- Providing wide parking spaces
- Attention to escape and emergency practices and provisions (i.e. fire escapes, hand rails, etc.)
- Taking care when choosing outside conference/meeting/presentation venues