Enablement is about helping create an equal workplace for everyone through awareness, equipment, policy and environment.
What is enablement?
First things first. What is enablement? In the context of the workplace, enablement is the act of enabling all employees to do their jobs - even if they have an impairment, illness, or disability. Sometimes this can mean making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the work space, equipment and any other areas of policy that limit the individual. We should all make reasonable adjustments because:
- It enables people to do their job properly
- It boosts staff productivity
- It attracts and retains talent
- It fosters business growth
- It creates an equal environment for everyone
- It is the law to do so
Understanding your legal duties
It is your duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for those who need them. Put simply, you must remove barriers that people face because of their disability or illness, in order to give them, as far as possible, the same opportunities and means as those who are not disabled.
What reasonable adjustments should you make?
Under the law, employers are expected to make the following reasonable adjustments within their business:
Changing the way things are done
In the Equality Act 2010, this point is described as adjusting your ‘provision, criterion, or practice’. It essentially means that sometimes the way organisations do things makes life harder for people with disabilities. If it is ‘reasonable’ to change this in a way that doesn’t disadvantage anyone, then you must do so.
It is your organisation’s policy for staff to park in a designated car park across the road. Allowing an employee with a mobility impairment to park in the visitor spaces directly outside the office building is likely to be considered a reasonable adjustment.
Changing a physical feature
In the Equality Act this is known as making reasonable adjustments to ‘physical features, such as the layout of and access to workplaces’. It means making changes to the physical features of a building, such as:
- Passageways and paths
- Entrances and exits
- Lighting and ventilation
- Steps and stairs
- Size of premises
Provide extra equipment or services
This is outlined in the Equality Act as ‘provision of auxiliary aids, including providing information in an accessible form such as Braille, large print, or email’. It means that if you can reasonably provide something to enable someone to do their job then you must do so. Examples include:
- Assistive technology products and software
- Disability Enablement assessments
- Extra staff assistance
When is it necessary to make reasonable adjustments?
The Equality Act 2010 says that you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments when an employee is placed at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ due to a disability when compared with their colleagues.
What counts as a substantial disadvantage?
A substantial disadvantage is defined in the Equality Act as being one that is ‘more than minor or trivial’. In other words, it would likely have a big impact on that person’s ability to carry out a task properly or effectively. The Act also emphasises that the employee would have to be at a substantial disadvantage when compared to a person or group carrying out the same tasks.
Some common examples of disabilities that are likely to put someone at a substantial disadvantage include:
- Problems with hearing or sight
- Conditions that come and go, like ME, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Learning disabilities
- Dyslexia and dyspraxia
- Impairments caused by injury
- Conditions that get worse over time, like motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy, or forms of dementia
- Autistic spectrum disorders
What happens if you don’t make reasonable adjustments?
If you don’t make reasonable adjustments for an employee then you are breaking the law. That employee can then complain internally and if the problem isn’t resolved, make a discrimination claim against you under the Equality Act. This can result in:
A compensation pay out
If found guilty of discrimination, you may have to pay compensation for injury to feelings and any financial losses. This amount can vary enormously.
If the tribunal agrees that you have behaved in a particularly malicious, or insulting way then you may be subject to additional costs for aggravated damages.
If the claimant believes the discrimination has caused them physical or mental harm, then they may claim personal injury costs.
The tribunal may suggest ways of preventing or reducing the effect of the discrimination on the claimant or any other employee, such as:
- Introducing an equal opportunities policy
- Setting up an internal review panel to deal with grievance procedures
- Retraining staff in equality matters
- Ensure equal opportunities policies are more effectively implemented
Head over to our assessment services page to find out how we can help you comply with law and better protect and empower your employees.
Or, if you’d rather speak in person, please fill out the contact form below and we will be in touch as soon as possible to answer any questions and get the ball rolling.