Making reasonable adjustments for an employee with a disability

Published: 30th October 2017

This case highlights how important it is to be thorough in considering reasonable adjustments for someone with a disability.

This employer is likely to have been very shaken when an employee, a security guard working alone in a remote location, suffered a hypoglycaemic episode.  It must have come as a particular shock as the employer had no idea that the employee was diabetic.

It is understandable that the employer wanted to remove the employee from a potentially dangerous situation, patrolling an isolated reservoir on his own.  Before making the decision, the employer carried out a risk assessment but, unfortunately, did not seek any medical advice on the employee’s condition.

The employment tribunal concluded that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments, although did criticise the employee for not making the employer aware of his condition. 

So, what might the employer have done to avoid this situation arising?

 

    • Asked the employee to complete a medical questionnaire at the start of employment.  While it is not generally acceptable to ask about medical conditions during the recruitment process, it is good practice to ask employees to disclose any relevant health information once employed, particularly if they are going to be working alone or in a potentially dangerous environment.  This puts you, as the employer, in a better position to provide support or make adjustments.
    • Carried out a risk assessment before the employee started the job.  This should involve consulting the employee, in which case the medical condition may have been revealed.
    • Requested an occupational health assessment or medical report.  This may have provided additional guidance on what support measures could be put in place.  Alternatively, it may have provided independent confirmation that the steps taken were the right ones.
    • Lone Worker Protection.  Provide lone workers with the support and protection of a system that monitors their wellbeing.

 

It is always a good idea to consult with the employee throughout any assessment of reasonable adjustments and to genuinely consider any suggestions they put forward.  It is also helpful to keep written records of any discussions, agreements or decisions made.

CIPD People Management Article