In addition to the new guidance from the EU Commission, the Health Service Authority (HSA) has recently published a helpful guide for employers outlining practical steps on accommodating employees with disabilities.
One in ten Irish people suffer from a form of disability. This figure highlights the importance of ensuring that your business has taken steps to comply with legislation governing the employment of people with disabilities. Policies on safety and health form the basis of a safety statement, which is a legal requirement. The guidance points out that developing these policies involves carrying out appropriate risk assessments and establishing control measures to identify risks. Your risk assessment should take into consideration and identify particular risks associated with individual disabilities. It is also important to keep written records of these risk assessments. Once policies are in place, it is crucial that actions are taken to implement them.
The guidance makes a number of useful suggestions about ways employers can make workplace premises more accessible for employees with disabilities. Practical examples given include, for example:
- a talking lift with tactile floor buttons;
- hands-free telephone sets; and
- later starting and finishing times.
The HSA guidance recommends other steps such as developing a practice of consulting with employees with disabilities and also suggests contacting the appropriate disability organisations, as they will be able to recommend steps that can be taken to provide for the health and safety of employees with disabilities.
Studies have shown that employees who feel respected in their work environment are more productive and have lower rates of absenteeism, making it cost effective to ensure that those with disabilities are not overlooked.
It is important to remember that there is a legal obligation on employers under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2004 to reasonably accommodate those with difficulties.
Although not a legal document, if actions are taken contrary to the guidance, employees with disabilities will be able to point to the guidance in support of any claim taken.