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DISABILITY POLICY FOR STAFF

HR/04/37

POLICY STATEMENT

The University is committed to equal opportunities for disabled people in recruitment and employment and aims to create an environment which enables them to work effectively as part of the University community. The policy is in line with the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy and Code of Practice which sets out the commitments and responsibilities of members of the University.

Aims

The University believes in the value of a diverse workforce and this includes the representation of staff with disabilities. It, therefore, aims to create an accessible physical environment and an inclusive culture. More specifically, it aims to ensure that:

  • Applications for employment are assessed on the basis of objective and relevant criteria that do not discriminate against disabled people
  • Reasonable adjustments are offered to candidates with disabilities, where appropriate, during the selection process
  • The views of staff with disabilities are taken into account and their concerns for confidentiality are respected
  • Reasonable adjustments are offered to staff with disabilities to enable them to undertake their work effectively
  • Existing members of staff who become disabled during their time at the University are enabled to continue in employment where this is practicable and in line with their wishes
  • Members of staff working with staff, students and visitors with disabilities have appropriate information, support and training
  • The University continues to improve the accessibility of its buildings through the Estates Plan
  • The University endeavours to make information available in accessible formats, on request

Legislative Background

The Disability Discrimination Act, 1995, makes it unlawful, in the field of employment, to discriminate against disabled people, or people who have had a disability.

The Act defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

  • Impairment covers physical impairments and impairments affecting the senses such as sight and hearing. It also covers mental impairments, including learning disabilities and mental illness where the condition is recognised by a respected body of medical opinion. If an impairment is controlled by medication or special aids the person is still considered as disabled for the purposes of the Act.
  • Substantial means more than minor or trivial and includes progressive conditions where impairment is likely to become substantial, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and HIV infection.
  • Long-term means effects which have lasted for at least twelve months, or are likely to last for twelve months or more. Long term effects include those which are likely to recur.
  • Day-to-day activities are normal activities carried out by most people on a regular basis, and must involve one of the following broad categories: mobility; manual dexterity; physical co-ordination; continence; the ability to lift, carry or move everyday objects; speech, hearing, or eyesight; memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand; perception of the risk of physical danger.
  • Severe disfigurements are treated as disabilities, even though they may have no effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act,1995, discrimination may occur in two ways:

  • For a reason which relates to a person’s disability, the employer treats the person less favourably than the employer treats, or would treat, others to whom the reason does not apply AND the employer cannot show that this treatment is justified
  • An employer fails to comply with a duty of reasonable adjustment imposed in relation to the disabled person AND cannot show that this failure is justified

CODE OF PRACTICE

Reasonable Adjustments

The University will make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a person with a disability is not at any substantial disadvantage when compared to a non-disabled person.

Reasonable adjustments are changes to the employment arrangements or any physical feature of the workplace and can include:

  • making adjustments to premises, fixtures and fittings, furniture and access to equipment
  • allocating some of the work to another person
  • transferring the employee to another post or another place of work
  • being flexible about hours of work and allowing the employee to be away from the office for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment
  • providing additional training
  • using modified equipment
  • making instructions and manuals more accessible
  • enabling the use of a reader or interpreter
  • Making special arrangements for parking and access to buildings

In all cases the University will consult with the person concerned about the reasonable accommodation of his or her needs. Decisions about whether an adjustment is reasonable will take into account all relevant factors including the cost of the measures, both financial and in terms of disruption to others, the practicality of making the change and the extent to which the adjustment will be of help to the employee or applicant with a disability and to other people.

Recruitment and Selection

The recruitment and selection of staff is guided by the University’s Code of Practice which aims to ensure the consistent and unbiased selection of the best candidate for each post. The following points highlight areas of particular relevance to candidates with disabilities within the recruitment and selection process:

  • In designing person specifications for posts, the University will outline the essential and desirable criteria required for the post. Care will be taken to ensure that these criteria are objective and that they do not unjustifiably place a disabled person at a disadvantage in the selection process.
  • Vacancies will be advertised in a wide range of media including local and/or national newspapers and websites, as appropriate to the type of post.
  • Text of all advertisements along with further particulars and application forms will be made available in electronic format, Braille, tape, disk and in large print on request. Information about these formats can be obtained from the Equal Opportunities Unit.
  • All short listed candidates will be asked if they have any additional requirements or need any adjustments to be made at interview or other parts of the selection process. Where these are requested, every effort will be made to ensure that they are provided. Adjustments could include, for example, providing a sign language interpreter or providing for tests to be taken under different conditions or produced in different formats.
  • All selection procedures will assess candidates on their suitability for the post according to objective criteria set out in the Person Specification.
  • At interview, the panel will take a positive and flexible approach to a candidate’s need for reasonable adjustments to undertake the duties of the post. The panel will not make assumptions about an individual’s ability to perform certain tasks. They will, however, give the individual the opportunity to identify adjustments that they or the University would need to make in order to perform the duties to the required standard.
  • Appointment decisions will take into account the requirement to provide reasonable adjustments; i.e. in deciding whether an individual meets the criteria for the post, it will be assumed that the appropriate adjustment has been made.
  • All successful candidates for posts at the University are required to attend a medical examination.
  • Candidates may also be invited to discuss the need for adjustments prior to taking up the post.
  • In exceptional circumstances, it may not be possible to find a reasonable adjustment to allow the employment of an otherwise suitable candidate. However, such a decision would only be made after taking specialist advice.

Access to Work

Advice on the employment of disabled people can be obtained from the University’s Equal Opportunities Officer and from the Disability Employment Adviser or the Access to Work Team at the Job Centre. Access to Work can also provide financial assistance to employers to enable a disabled person to start or continue in employment. Further information on Access to Work can be found on the Job Centre Plus Website at:

http://www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/JCP/index.html

Disclosure and Confidentiality

In accordance with the Data Protection Act, any information given to the University regarding a disability will be treated in confidence.

Once appointed, individuals will be asked whether they wish their colleagues to be informed of their disability and their wishes will be respected. However, unless line managers are allowed to have the necessary information, it may not be possible to put into place the required adjustments, nor to anticipate and make provision for future need. Completion of the Equal Opportunities Monitoring form is done in complete confidence and does not constitute disclosure of a disability to the University.

Training, Induction and Support

Training on Disability Awareness and Equality is included as part of the University’s annual training programme and staff are made aware of their rights and responsibilities through the Induction Programme. Disabled members of staff will not be disadvantaged in their opportunities for training and development. The Centre for Staff and Academic Practice Development responds to requests for adjustments or additional requirements (such as interpreters, large print or electronic versions of training materials) on internal training programmes and will advise on such provision for external training programmes.

Every effort will be made to provide other appropriate types of support for disabled members of staff. For example, where required, adjustments will be made to allow full participation in staff and team meetings. Regular reviews will take place to ensure that arrangements are in line with the needs of the individual.

Facilities/ Equipment/Accessibility of buildings and the environment

The University is committed to improving the accessibility of its buildings. The University buildings have been audited for physical accessibility for people with physical and sensory disabilities. Recommendations have been made and work to improve access began in the Summer, 2002. All support services (library etc) and academic departments are currently reviewing their accessibility, and working towards improving access to publications and other learning materials (e.g. by providing materials in a variety of formats). A Physical Accessibility Guide to the University can be found on the University website at:

http://www.aston.ac.uk/current-students/welfareservices/disability/facilities/

Where practicable, the University will also make adjustments to the immediate working environment of a disabled person, for example, the provision of special furniture, equipment or signage or will endeavour to find a more appropriate location for a post where the established location is unsuitable.

Health and Safety

It may be necessary, on occasion, to make special arrangements to ensure that a person’s impairment, or an issue relating to it, does not create a hazard for themselves or for others. Arrangements, for example, for the safe evacuation of persons identified as being especially at risk from fire can be found within the Fire Emergency Plan. In all cases members of staff with disabilities that affect their mobility in an emergency will be consulted about their individual needs for evacuating the building in a safe and dignified manner, in advance of any emergency and a personal plan produced.

Provisions for people who become disabled or whose needs change

All members of staff will be asked on an annual basis whether they have a condition or disability for which the University ought to consider reasonable adjustments. When employees become disabled during the course of their employment, all reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that they are able to remain in employment at the University. The Personnel Officer will work with the individual concerned, their line manager, the University’s Occupational Health Service and/or other appropriate specialist agencies to assess the impact of the disability and identify appropriate options. These could include:

  • continuing in the same post with reasonable adjustments to the duties and/or the working environment
  • redeployment to another post within the University which may include a requirement for retraining within a reasonable timescale
  • consideration of early retirement on ill-health grounds
  • where none of the above are practicable or possible, termination of employment on the grounds of capability may be necessary. In such a case the employee would have the usual right of appeal

Discipline

When taking disciplinary action against a disabled employee the University will fully consider whether there are reasons related to their disability for a disabled employee behaving in the way that has led to the disciplinary action. This is to ensure that there is no discrimination that is just due to disability.

It will ensure that the disabled person is treated fairly in terms of having time to prepare for any such proceedings, so that they are not placed at a disadvantage compared to non disabled employees. It will also check whether “reasonable adjustments” need to be made in relation to arrangements for disciplinary action or interviews.

Redundancy

The University will ensure that, in the event of potential redundancies, selection criteria do not discriminate against disabled employees. It will also ensure that any arrangements that are made for consultation do not discriminate against disabled employees.

Discrimination and non-compliance

All employees are expected to treat their colleagues with dignity and respect. Any form of harassment of a disabled person on account of their disability is unacceptable behaviour and is unlawful under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act. Incidents of harassment may be grounds for disciplinary action and individuals are also personally liable under law.

The Policy on the Prevention of Harassment contains guidance on dealing with harassment.

Monitoring and Review

The University monitors the numbers of disabled people who apply for posts, those who are short listed, selected and those who are existing employees. Knowing the proportion of disabled people at various levels of the University, and at various stages in relation to the recruitment process, can help determine where practices and policies need to be improved. This information is collected on a confidential basis through the Equal Opportunities Monitoring procedure and is reported anonymously to the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Project Group. Where changes or improvements are required this Group may then make recommendations to the Disability Working Party and the Equality & Diversity Forum for their consideration.

Action Plan

The University will produce an Action Plan to ensure the full implementation of the policy and this will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Approved by University Council 8.12.04

Last saved: Last updated at 4:25 pm on 20 June 2005