Unlike many employment rights, protection against discrimination is from day one. It is a travesty that you have to “earn” your full employment rights by being in post for two years. This qualifying period used to be one year until it was changed under the Liberal Democrat/Tory coalition government. This means access to benefits like redundancy payments and protection from unfair dismissal is only granted once you have been in post for a full two years.
Fortunately however, protection from discrimination starts from your first day at work thanks to the Equality Act 2010. The Act was introduced by the last Labour Government, and is a landmark piece of legislation which brings together and replaces all former discrimination legislation and makes it more accessible and coherent. Under this legislation you cannot to be discriminated against on the grounds of the 9 “protected characteristics”; these are: Sex, Race, Age, Sexual Orientation, Religion and Belief, Marital or Civil Partnership status, Gender Reassignment, Pregnancy or Maternity, and finally Disability.
The number of disabled people of working age in Britain is steadily increasing in 2012 some 15% of the working age population, 6.9 million, had a disability; and now disabled people make up 20% of Britain’s working age population. However, disabled workers still face significant barriers entering and remaining in the workplace and TUC research shows that workers with a disability are twice as likely to fall out of employment. The research found that one in ten disabled people dropped out of work in the UK in 2018; a staggering figure of 391,000 people.
The Equality Act 2010 puts a legal duty on all employers to proactively make “reasonable adjustments”. Reasonable adjustments are a mechanism to make sure that those with a disability are given access to the workplace and are fully and equally included at work. A reasonable adjustment could be providing specially adapted equipment (like a computer screen, desk or chair), temporarily changing the duties of the job, changing break times or working patterns, or allowing flexible working or time off for medical appointments.
Napo activists and members continually report that they must fight to get reasonable adjustments agreed by the employer, and when finally agreed, for those adjustments to be implemented in a timely way. In some extreme cases we have learnt that members have had to wait up to two years for their reasonable adjustments to be put in place. This is unacceptable and any unnecessary delay can be potentially unlawful and could be taken to an employment tribunal.
Disabled members have also reported that they worry about moving jobs, getting a promotion or if their manager changes they will have to go through the stress and anxiety of justifying their reasonable adjustments all over again or risk losing them if they do not fight for them. This is why the TUC has introduced a template reasonable adjustment passport. The passport is a voluntary initiative that can be taken up by the employee, so that employees can capture which adjustments have been put in place to eliminate barriers in the workplace. The document is then signed by the relevant parties, and should be reviewed by HR at regular intervals. Put simply, the document means disabled people do not have to explain their requirements every time their line manager changes, or when they change role within the organisation.
To date the NPS is the first employer in Probation that has taken the positive step and adopted this initiative. Alongside DAWN – the disability support network – the NPS have launched its workplace reasonable adjustment passport. The purpose of the passport, according to the NPS, is to support employees with a disability, health condition or those who are undergoing gender reassignment in the workplace, and will also be of help when individuals move between departments. The passport has three main functions:
It can also be helpful in starting a conversation about less visible disabilities such as mental health conditions or invisible disabilities such as Crohn’s disease.
Going forward we shall be looking to negotiate with other employers in Probation to follow in the footsteps of the NPS so they too can adopt their own Reasonable Adjustments Policy and provide a template for a reasonable adjustment passport to support their disabled staff remain in the workplace.
Napo National Official