Recruitment and selection is an inevitable and integral part of running any childcare establishment. Ensuring that your recruitment and selection process is legally compliant with regards to equal opportunities is always of paramount importance. What should you take into account if an applicant suffers from a condition which falls within the definition of a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 (the Act)?
Lorraine owns a nursery and was in the process of trying to recruit a childcare practitioner for their preschool room. One applicant was well qualified for the position and had the requisite experience. During the interview, the applicant informed Lorraine that she suffers from a longstanding disorder which significantly affects her manual dexterity and she is classified as having a disability. The applicant outlined that because of her condition; her previous employer had made adaptions to the door handles and cupboards to assist her and provided extra assistance from other members of staff as and when required. Although the applicant was suitable in all other ways, as a relatively new business, Lorraine was concerned that she would not be able to afford the adaptations and assistance but did not want to discriminate against the applicant because of her condition.
Lorraine called the Employment Advice Service to ask for their view. They advised that the Act provides a duty on employers to consider if there are any reasonable adjustments to working practices and premises that they could make to remove or reduce any substantial disadvantage that a disabled person would otherwise face if s/he were employed. However, if an adjustment would cost a high sum of money in relation to the employer’s resources, or if making the adjustment would cause considerable disruption to the employer’s business, it could, possibly, be reasonable for the employer to decide not to make the adjustment(s).
In making a decision as to whether any adjustment is reasonable, Lorraine was advised to undertake a full investigation as to what adjustments would be needed and how much this would all cost. Lorraine was also advised that the Government runs a scheme called “Access to Work”, which can often provide grants towards the cost of equipment and maybe able to assist.
Lorraine was further advised that it is unlawful to reject a disabled job applicant if the reason for rejection is because they have a disability. However, if the rejection is because of “something arising in consequence of” their disability, this can, potentially, be justified. The justification could be where any adjustments needed to accommodate the disabled applicant would involve prohibitive costs and/or substantial disruption to the employer.
When potentially recruiting an individual who suffers from a disability, it is important to assess and investigate the adjustments that would be needed along with any funding which could be sought to assist in making those adjustments. Further, when rejecting an applicant who suffers from a disability it is vital to ensure that the decision to reject is not because they are disabled. Plus if the reason for the rejection is because of something arising out of the applicant’s disability, the employer must be sure that this is justified. Seeking further employment law advice in these circumstances would always be preferable to minimise any risk of liability for disability discrimination.
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