If you have team members with disabilities, it’s not just a case of considering reasonable adjustments and perhaps thinking about possible sickness absence. A disability may be a factor you need to consider in a wider range of aspects of their employment.
It’s crucial to ensure your employees with disabilities have equal access to training and other learning opportunities, and also that any barriers to progression are removed where possible.
You might need to adjust training methods and activities to ensure they are fully accessible to everyone, and consideration of access for those with disabilities should be an automatic factor when developing new learning opportunities. Some adjustments could be very simple, such as layout of training room, or providing notes in advance, but ensuring the needs of your disabled employees are taken care of is vital to ensuring they are included.
When considering succession planning and internal recruitment and promotion opportunities, just check that you’re not automatically assuming an employee with a disability isn’t interested. You may make the assumption that the particular disability they have might mean they wouldn’t want to do certain roles, or wouldn’t want increased responsibility.
Instead, consider whether a disability might be a barrier to accessing a promotion or a new opportunity, and look at how to remove that barrier. Talk to your disabled employee about their ambitions and progression or development they might be interested in. If they are keen to progress but feel barriers are in their way, engage in discussions about how those barriers might be removed.
Disabled employees being visibly as easily able to progress within your organisation as anyone else is great for reinforcing an inclusive culture and can help encourage other colleagues with disabilities or other barriers to seek progression themselves.
Monitor your promotion decisions to ensure no bias is creeping in, and if a pattern develops of disabled employees either not applying or not being successful, consider looking at whether adjustments are needed, further support, or training for appointing managers.
When conducting any kind of performance management or appraisal, it’s important to ensure that any impact the employee’s disability may have had is taken into account. Expectations or targets might need to be adjusted, lowered, or measured differently as a reasonable adjustment, and where there is a concern, separate out factors relating to a disability and other factors if at all possible.
If there are performance concerns such that you need to take more formal action, it is sensible to seek advice from occupational health as part of that process. This should provide a greater level of understanding of to what extent the disability is impacting performance, which will help you pinpoint any adjustments that might be needed and how you can address underperformance fairly without penalising someone because of a disability.
Just as with performance concerns, if there is a conduct problem it may also be sensible to engage occupational health advice, as there are occasions where a disability may be a contributory factor in the event of a behavioural issue.
That is not to say unacceptable conduct has to be tolerated – clearly an employer has to balance its own needs and those of other colleagues when it comes to misconduct by a disabled employee. But a disability may form some mitigation, and part of the outcome of a conduct problem may include implementation of adjustments designed to help reduce the chance of a recurrence.
If a formal hearing is necessary because of disciplinary issues, formal performance management or indeed a grievance, you must also consider the disability when it comes to accessing the process, making reasonable adjustments if needed. This might include conducting a hearing remotely or utilising assistive technology.
Ultimately, your disabled employee has the right to fair access and fair treatment in relation to all aspects of working life in your business, whether it’s promotion opportunities or a fair hearing in the event of serious misconduct, so their disability should be considered throughout their time with you and across the range of aspects of the employee lifecycle. If you’d like some assistance in managing a disabled employee do get in touch.