Over the last year or so, there have been several Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and Labour Court decisions that dealt with claims taken under the Equality Act on the grounds of disability. The vast majority of these claims resulted in employees being awarded compensation for discrimination due to the employers’ failure to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
The definition of a disability under the Equality Acts 1998 and 2004 is quite broad. It is defined as one of the following:
- “the total or partial absence of bodily or mental functions, including the absence of a part of a person’s body;
- the presence in the body of organisms causing, or likely to cause chronic disease or illness;
- the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person’s body;
- a condition or malfunction that results in a person learning differently from a person without the condition or malfunction;
- a condition, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour; and shall be taken to include a disability that exists at present, or that previously existed but no longer exists, or that may exist in the future or that is imputed to a person.”
Due to the broad definition, employers find themselves dealing with employees with disabilities quite often. When determining what reasonable accommodation is we need to look at the below:
- The financial and other costs entailed;
- The scale and financial resources of the employer’s business and;
- The possibility of obtaining pubic funding or other assistance.
As companies and organisations vary in size, that which is reasonable for one employer will not be reasonable for another. It’s important that employers look at each case on an individual basis. Employers should consult with the employee concerned to understand their specific needs, research the cost associated with the accommodations, weigh up if such costs are viable and whether or not funding can be obtained.
All attempts to reasonably accommodate an employee should be documented. Dismissal should only be considered where there is no way to reasonably accommodate the employee, or the proposed accommodation would result in a disproportionate burden on the employer.
If you have any questions in relation to reasonable accommodation please contact the advice line on 01 886 0350.