Supporting Disabled Employees

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What is the University’s position on disability?

The University supports the social model of disability. Disability is primarily a form of institutional discrimination and social exclusion, rather than a product of physical difference between individuals.   We are committed to being anticipatory and pro-active in creating an inclusive and accessible environment for everyone. We recognise that disabled staff may require some practical adjustments, support or guidance to ensure, as far as possible, that you have equal access to everything the University can offer you. We are committed to working to provide you with these, if you need them. Read the Disability Equality Framework 2021 to find out more.

Who is defined as disabled?

A person is considered to have a disability according to the definition under the Equality Act 2010, “if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. This definition is quite broad, for example it can include people with cancer, cystic fibrosis, depression, dyslexia, HIV, repetitive strain injury (RSI) or a severe facial disfigurement. Many of us who work at the University may have a disability that is covered by the Equality Act 2010 without even realising it.

  • substantial – in other words, not minor or trivial and someone is still considered disabled if the effects of their impairment are alleviated or removed by ongoing treatments or aids.
  • long-term – this usually means that the effects have lasted, or are likely to last, for 12 months or longer.

The Government provides further information about the definition of disability according to the Equality Act 2010.

What can the University do to assist me?

To ensure that those of us who are disabled have equal opportunities to non-disabled staff members, the University has a legal duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled employees. ‘Adjustment’ is the legal term for any change or adaptation made in the workplace to ensure equal access for a disabled person. The most common types of adjustment include:

  • the services of a support worker (for example, a personal assistant or sign-language interpreter);
  • equipment (for example assistive computer software or an adjustable height desk);
  • transcription of written materials into accessible formats (for example braille or large print);
  • adjustments to workplaces or the physical environment;
  • adjustments to an employee’s duties, working routine or conditions of service or the provision of disability leave.

‘Reasonable’ is difficult to define as it is dependent on the unique circumstances of each case, but all adjustments must be aimed at addressing particular environmental barriers you face, and that you have a right to be fully involved in any discussions about adjustments related to your circumstances. Not all potential adjustments may be reasonable to make, but if a request is not accepted, you should be given a clear explanation of why it was not reasonable.

I think I am disabled. Should I talk to someone at the University about it?

It is up to you whether or not you tell the University that you are disabled. However, the University is working hard to create an environment in which staff feel comfortable sharing this information with us.  Telling us that you are disabled is important if there are barriers in the workplace that we need to change or adapt for you. It will be more difficult, and in many cases impossible, for the University to provide these adjustments if you do not tell us what support you need. In addition, sharing this information with us can also help the University to improve the way it works with disabled staff – for example this information can help us to assess the impact of University activities and actions on disabled staff.

Please note that if you have shared information about your disability either during the recruitment process or via self service, this information will not be passed to your line manager. If you feel you require any adjustments, you should talk to the person or people who are responsible for supporting you generally in your day to-day work. Your manager or HR manager are often good first points of contact. You can also contact HR if you would like to let the university know that you are disabled, without necessarily requesting any adjustments.

In some circumstances, you may also need to think about whether there might be any particular health and safety implications for you, or the people you work with – for example, if you are likely to encounter any difficulties with fire evacuation. If the University doesn’t know about these, it will not be possible to put in place any additional training or support required to protect employees’ safety at work. In the majority of cases, there is no reason why a disabled employee should present any greater health and safety risks than a non-disabled staff member. Also, health and safety issues must never be used by managers, or anyone else to justify discriminatory treatment. If you need more information or advice about health and safety issues, you can contact the University’s Health and Safety Service or talk to your local Safety Coordinator.

If you decide not to tell the University that you are disabled, you can always talk to someone at a later date.

Your manager

Ideally, you should talk to your manager if you have a disability-related issue or question. Depending on your job, this person might go under another title, such as ‘supervisor’ or ‘team leader’. Managers have a key responsibility for your general well-being and ensuring you have access to the full range of opportunities that go with your job. If you feel comfortable about it, you should discuss with your manager any barriers in the workplace that may need to be changed or adapted for you. Once they are aware of the issues, you can work together to determine what adjustments you might need to do your job now and in the future. They may also seek advice from HR on how to best assist you or refer you to other services and individuals who can provide further advice and assistance if necessary.

Your HR Manager

If you are uncomfortable talking to your manager, you can consult your HR Manager to discuss any concerns. There are many legitimate reasons why you might not want to talk to your manager about reasonable adjustments and your disability, and you do not have to explain your decision. However, if you need significant changes to your workplace or working conditions, then your manager may still need to become involved eventually. Similarly, even if you approach your manager first, your HR Manager may become involved at some point, as they are there to assist you in all aspects of your employment. You can contact your HR Manager in confidence at any point.

I need some workplace adjustments, what happens next?

If you have talked to your manager or HR Manager about your disability, you should discuss with them any reasonable adjustments you might require. They should help you identify what you need, and put this in place where possible. If you need any adjustments in the workplace – particularly to your duties, working routine or conditions of service – in the majority of cases you will probably need to talk to your manager or HR Manager eventually.

One of the most common forms of adjustment is the provision of assistive equipment (for example, specially designed software or office furniture) or specialist assistive software (for example, speech to text or screen-reading software). You may also get assistance from support workers (for example sign-language interpreters or personal assistants). If the cost of the agreed adjustment is less than £1000 there is unlikely to be any source of funding for this from outside of the University for most staff, and usually the school or service you are working in would have to meet this. If it is over £1000 you would normally be expected to apply to the government’s Access to Work Scheme to fund or make some contribution to the costs of your reasonable adjustments.

If you require changes to your physical work environment, your school or service (normally your manager) would be responsible for identifying an appropriate workspace for you, or for working with the University’s Estates Services to arrange any necessary works or adjustments.

What is Access to Work?

Access to Work is a government funded employment scheme that provides individual financial support to ensure disabled people can start or stay in work. Find out more about eligibility, funding and how to apply with the University guidance about Access to Work.

Who else at the University might be able to help me?

Find out more from the Resources for Supporting Disabled Employees Guidance about who can support disabled employees at the University and externally with reasonable adjustments, diagnosis and disability awareness training.