Construction and Disability

Construction and Disability

In the construction industry people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against – and employers have much to gain from taking on a diverse workforce.

A mixed-ability workforce in construction brings rewards that cut both ways. For people with disabilities, a job in construction can provide a great career for life.

Meanwhile, the industry gains a diverse workforce of highly respected employees who are skilled at what they do – and will often be very loyal to a good employer.  Here we take a closer look at the subject.

Telling the boss

Should a person with a disability tell their boss about it? This is a question many people ask themselves – especially if their disability is invisible.

Although an employee with a disability is not obliged to disclose their disability to their employer, if they do, 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.  

It’s also worth remembering that if an employer is unaware of a disability they will not be able to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled workers aren’t seriously disadvantaged when doing their jobs. 

Reasonable adjustment

In practical terms in construction, a reasonable adjustment may be as simple as providing a particular type of control on a piece of machinery.

In legal terms, adjustments can aim 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.

An employer is not required to do more than what is reasonable and this depends, among other factors, on the size and nature of their organisation.  Advice is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Health and safety

Health and safety should never be used as an excuse to discriminate, even if this is not the intention.

Employers may need to consider adjusting the task to make it possible for a disabled worker to do a job safely.

Find out more about health and safety for disabled people

Health and Safety Adjustments

Assessing risks

Risk assessments are essential in the construction industry, but employers do not need to carry out a separate health and safety risk assessment for a disabled employee.

Instead, they should review the risk assessment carefully to make sure they cover any risks that might be present for that employee and their colleagues. They may then need to put measures in place to address any risks.

These may be simple, such as allowing other colleagues to do certain parts of an activity or providing suitable alternative equipment.

Asking the employees

Employees who feel most involved in their work often produce the best results. This is especially true when risk is assessed and adjustments that can be made to address them are discussed.

An employee with a disability and their colleagues should always be consulted.

Financial support

A person with a disability may be eligible for an Access to Work grant to help them: 

  • Start working
  • Stay in work
  • Move into self-employment ot start a business

Meanwhile, an employer might get financial assistance through the same scheme to cover the cost of any new equipment needed when employing someone with a disability.

Find out more about how employers can use Access to Work 

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