Disclosure of disabilities: employer obligations

As we are urged to restrict social contact in order to protect vulnerable members of our society, some employees are disclosing personal health challenges and details of medical conditions suffered by people close to them in order to justify their reasons for choosing to self-isolate, even though they don’t have any symptoms of the virus.

Employers are encouraged to show empathy and compassion to their workforce but they should also be made aware that disclosure of a disability, defined as a ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’, creates an obligation on an employer to consider reasonable adjustments and ensure that the employee is not subjected to discrimination because of a disability.

The law also prohibits discrimination by association with a disabled person such as a partner or close family member.

Discrimination can take various forms. Treating someone less favourably; placing them at an unfair disadvantage, harassing them or victimising them because they have complained of discrimination or harassment are all types of discrimination.

An employee does not need 2 years continuous service to claim disability discrimination against their employer. There is also no cap on the amount of compensation payable to an employee who has suffered discrimination.

A disclosure of a disability should be managed as sensitive personal data and discretion and confidentiality must be maintained.

Consider what adjustments are reasonable in the circumstances of the current pandemic and don’t forget to follow up at some point in the future to see whether an occupational health assessment is necessary or any other adjustments are necessary when ‘normal’ service resumes.

Once the disclosure has been made, the obligations are on the employer, even if the employee wants you to forget their original disclosure.

For further advice on this issue, contact us

 

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