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What are the penalties for failing to comply with disability discrimination laws?
Discrimination legislation imposes a duty on businesses to make reasonable adjustments to premises or working practices where a disabled job applicant or employee is placed at a substantial disadvantage. Failing to comply with this duty is a form of disability discrimination. There is no limit to the amount of compensation that can be awarded for a successful disability discrimination claim.
When does the duty to make reasonable adjustments arise?
The duty can arise in three circumstances:
What is a provision, criterion or practice?
The phrase “provision, criterion or practice” is wide ranging and includes:
What is a physical feature?
The physical feature must be part of the business premises for the duty to arise. For example:
What is an auxiliary aid?
An auxiliary aid is something which provides support or assistance to a disabled person (for example, a specialist piece of equipment, such as an adapted keyboard or text to speech software).
What is a substantial disadvantage?
Discrimination legislation describes “substantial” as “more than minor or trivial”. It is a relatively low threshold and, therefore, an employment tribunal is likely to find it easy to conclude that a claimant suffered a substantial disadvantage. Whether an employee is placed at a substantial disadvantage depends on the individual facts of the situation.
Taking steps to identify disability
A business is not expected to make reasonable adjustments if it does not know, or could not reasonably be expected to know, that the disabled person has a disability and is likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage. Reasonable steps should be taken to put a system in place to help the business identify whether individuals are disabled and at a substantial disadvantage. If a business should have known about a disability, for example if it would have been discovered from an occupational health assessment, then the duty to make reasonable adjustments will arise.
What is a “reasonable” adjustment?
Although each situation will be different, there are a number of factors which may be taken into consideration when deciding if the steps a business has taken were “reasonable”, including:
It is good practice for the business to ask the disabled person about possible adjustments. It is also advisable to agree any proposed adjustments with that person before they are made.
Adjustments a business may be required to make
The reasonable adjustments that a business may be required to make will depend on the facts of the individual situation. However, examples include: