UK: SME/Professional Counsel - Law - How discriminating are you?

UK: SME/Professional Counsel - Law - How discriminating are you? - The law on disability discrimination in recruitment is set to change.

by Alison Bell, a litigation solicitor with Bond Pearce 01752266633.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The law on disability discrimination in recruitment is set to change.

The Government is planning to change the law relating to disability discrimination in recruitment. Previously, it did not apply to SMEs with less than 20 employees but all this looks set to change. This means that you must start thinking about your recruitment policies now to ensure that you do not lay yourself open to a potentially expensive claim in an industrial tribunal by a potential employee. So ask these questions during the selection process.

- Is the applicant disabled? The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 says that disability includes a 'physical or mental impairment' which has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' adverse effect on the disabled person's ability to carry out ' normal day-to-day activities'.

- What does discrimination mean? Discrimination occurs if your business treats a disabled person less favourably than it treats or would treat somebody without that disability for a reason related to that disability.

In recruitment terms, that could simply mean not offering the job to the disabled applicant. You must consider whether you can make 'reasonable adjustments' to counter the effect of the disability. This not only includes adjustments to the premises (widening doorways, fitting ramps, etc) but also to working practices (such as alteration of hours of work or duties).

- What if the disabled person is not the right person for the job? If you reject the applicant for reasons unrelated to the disability, there is no discrimination. If you reject them due to the disability, you would have only a limited defence if you can show that the discrimination is material to the case and substantial, and obviously you must have made reasonable adjustments.

- What should I do? Introduce an equal opportunities policy to eliminate the possibility of discrimination not only against the disabled but also on the grounds of sex or race. Consult with local disability groups.

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