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FAQs

Can health and safety law provide an employer with a legitimate reason to reject a job applicant on the grounds of their disability?

There are very few cases where health and safety law requires the exclusion of specific groups of people from certain types of activity. While work in hazardous situations cannot always be eliminated, it can often be substantially reduced with comparatively little cost.  With reasonable adjustments and plans to review if circumstances change, risks can be managed. This might be achieved by reallocating responsibilities or rescheduling duties to more suitable times.

Find out more about recruitment of disabled people on gov.uk.

Is an employer required to carry out a separate risk assessment for each disabled employee?

No, there is no requirement to carry out a separate risk assessment for a disabled employee. Employers should already be managing any significant workplace risks, including putting control measures in place to eliminate or reduce the risks. If an employer becomes aware of an employee who has a disability, they should review the risk assessment to make sure it covers risks that might be present for that employee.

Can an employee who has epilepsy be allowed to work at height and around hazardous machinery?

Many workplaces at height, or with dangerous machinery, should be suitably protected and not present a problem for a person with epilepsy. Where risks remain, reasonable adjustments, and plans to review if circumstances change, mean the residual risks can be managed. Reasonable adjustments might include considering the scheduling of duties in the vicinity of hazardous machinery to times when the machines are not operating.

Epilepsy action provides more information about epilepsy in the workplace .

How does an employer assess whether an employee’s condition puts themselves and others at risk?

An employer must not make assumptions about an employee’s condition and should consider a number of things:

  1. Have the risks to all employees been assessed properly and appropriate control measures put in place?
    It may be that appropriate changes to the work equipment and environment could significantly reduce the risk and take the issue of disability out of the equation.
  2. Does the employee’s condition create an increased risk to their health and safety or the health and safety of others?
    The condition might be well managed and the employer may conclude that review of the situation at regular intervals is sufficient.
    • If so, can these risks be prevented or adequately controlled through normal health and safety management?
      Can the risks be addressed by allowing other colleagues to do certain elements of the activity, or by providing suitable, alternative equipment, for example automated equipment to reduce manual handling or change systems of work?
    • If not, what reasonable adjustments could be put in place to prevent or adequately control the residual risks?
      The employer might be able to apply for financial assistance through the Government’s Access to Work scheme to cover the cost of new equipment.
    • Be sure to consult with the employee themselves and colleagues, seeking opinions and ensuring they are involved in discussions which affect them.  Those involved in the work often propose good solutions.

Do employees have to disclose a disability to their employer?

No, there is no obligation for an employee to disclose their disability to their employer. However, if an employee has a disability, they are protected under the Equality Act 2010. This makes it unlawful for an employer to treat them less favourably than other employees for any reason connected with their disability, unless there is justification for such action. There is also a duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled workers aren’t seriously disadvantaged when doing their jobs. If an employer does not know about a disability they will not be able to take the necessary action to protect the employee from harm.

What is a reasonable adjustment?

A reasonable adjustment is an adjustment which aims to make sure that, as far as is reasonable, a disabled worker has the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as a non-disabled person.

Many of the adjustments an employer can make will not be particularly expensive and could be as simple as providing a special computer mouse, or chair, or sitting someone in a specific location.  An employer is not required to do more than what is reasonable for them to do. What is reasonable for them to do depends, among other factors, on the size and nature of their organisation.

Advice is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) about workplace adjustments, with a further link to examples of the sort of adjustments an employer could make.

The guidance covers disabled workers, but what about disabled people accessing services – shop customers, for example. Is a service provider required to make adjustments?

The primary focus of the guidance is employers' responsibilities towards their employees. However, service providers should not use ‘health and safety’ as a false excuse for refusing to make reasonable adjustments for service users under the Equality Act 2010.

Updated 2016-06-07