A recent case heard at the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has highlighted the importance of disabled employees informing their employers of their disabilities.

The Equality Act 2010 says that people are disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The law says that employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure employees with disabilities are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

In some cases, a person’s disability is easily discernible, a blind person walking with a guide dog for example. But many disabilities are hidden and as the case below shows, employers can’t always be expected to know about an employee’s disability, and act, unless told.

In the case of Preston v E.on Energy Solutions Ltd (which was not a case this union was involved in), the EAT found that the employer could not be found guilty of failing to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee, as was alleged, because the employer did not know, nor could it have reasonably known, that the employee was disabled. In short, the employee had never given his employer any indication of his disability and so the court decided the employer could not have been expected to make reasonable adjustments to avoid him being at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled employees.

If you know you are disabled, or you think you might be disabled under the Equality Act definition, it’s important that you make your employer aware for two reasons:

  • First, so that your employer has an opportunity to make any reasonable adjustments that are needed to help you at work. An example of a reasonable adjustment might be providing a visually impaired person with a larger computer screen.
  • Secondly, so that your employer can’t argue that it never knew you were disabled and use that as a justification for not making reasonable adjustments.

How We Can Help

If you haven’t told your employer that you’re disabled, the first step is to contact us so that we can advise you on the best way to raise the matter. We can also help if you’re not sure whether you would be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010.

If your employer knows you are disabled but has failed to consider the need (or refused) to make reasonable adjustments, it’s essential that you contact the Advice Team for further advice. Remember the Advice Team are available 24 hours a day on 01234 262868. Alternatively, you can email 24hours@btuonline.co.uk.

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