Disability and Reasonable Accommodation
What are my obligations?
The Employment Equality Acts oblige employers to make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. An employer must take ‘appropriate measures’ to meet the needs of disabled people in the workforce. This means they must make arrangements that will enable a person who has a disability to:
- have equal opportunities when applying for work
- be treated the same as co-workers
- have equal opportunities for promotion
- undertake training.
Reasonable accommodation does not mean that an employer has to recruit, promote, retain or provide training to a person who does not have the capacity to do a particular job. However, an employer cannot decide that a person with a disability is incapable of doing a particular job without considering whether there are appropriate measures which they could take to support the person to carry out the required duties.
Appropriate measures mean effective and practical changes that the employer puts in place to enable employees with a disability to carry out their work on an equal footing with others. These include:
- adapting the premises or the equipment, for example, installing wheelchair ramps, providing special computers for the visually impaired, installing loop systems, and so on;
- offering flexible working times;
- providing training or other supports that might help;
- adjusting an employee’s attendance hours or allowing them to work from home; or
- assigning an employee certain tasks, and substituting others for equivalent duties, in consultation with the employee.
The employer is not obliged to provide anything that the person would normally provide for themselves. For example, an employer would not be expected to provide hearing aids for a person with impaired hearing.
In order to know which appropriate measures to put in place, employers need to understand the practical needs of people with disabilities, including those of people with experience of mental health difficulties. This can be gained through consultation with employees with disabilities, through additional information on this website and through guidance from the National Disability Authority.
An employer might not have to provide these types of appropriate measures if it meant that the employer would suffer a ‘disproportionate burden’. In order to establish what a ‘disproportionate burden’ is for the employer, several things are taken into account.
- the financial cost of the measures involved
- other costs involved, for example, staff time or impact on productivity
- the size and financial resources of the employer’s business.
Before an employer can claim that providing reasonable accommodation measures or facilities would place them under a ‘disproportionate burden’, they must look at the possibility of obtaining public funding, grants and so on. If help is available to them, it might make the changes possible. Many reasonable accommodation measures would not necessarily have a cost implication – such as flexible work arrangements or facilitating part-time work.
For a checklist related to disability access, see the Disability Resource Pack produced by the NDA.
Please note that these factsheets are for information only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such.