Disability and you – What you should know

What is a disability? It is an easy question to answer isn’t it. After all everybody knows that the answer is anyone who is a wheelchair user, who has lost a limb, is blind or is deaf. However, is it really that easy? What about someone with diabetes, dyslexia, work-related stress or obstructive sleep apnoea?

The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

Long term is usually defined as capable of lasting for 12 months or longer. If you meet this definition of a disability, then your employer is legally bound by the duties imposed upon them under the act and cannot discriminate against you on the grounds of your disability.

One of the most important obligations placed upon an employer is their duty to consider reasonable adjustments to your job to ensure that you can continue in the job that you were employed to do.

This must be done before any other action can be taken against you. However, just what is meant by a reasonable adjustment?

This can be anything that helps the person to carry out their normal duties and can be as simple as providing a chair with proper back support for someone with a back problem to letting someone with obstructive sleep apnoea come in a little later in the mornings to providing hearing aid compatible telephones.

Of course, you are all saying that your employer will complain about the cost, especially as budgets are being cut back in the current climate.

Research carried out by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has shown that 70% (yes 70%) of all reasonable adjustments cost nothing at all.

Help is also at hand via government agencies such as Job Centre Plus and schemes such as Access to Work and Work Step. These schemes can help to provide funding for workplace assessments to be carried out by properly qualified people such as the RNIB or RNID or to help pay for reasonable adjustments.

But this all sounds so complicated, I hear you cry! Where can we get help and advice and find out what UNISON is doing to help its disabled members.

Well, fear not readers help is at hand! The Scottish Disabled Members Committee (SDMC) is a self organised group consisting entirely of disabled members who campaign on behalf of our disabled members to ensure that disability issues are given a voice within UNISON.

SDMC members are represented on all of the various Scottish committees as well as on the National Disabled Members Committee. We also attend the National Disabled Members Conference and National Delegate Conference as well as the STUC disabled members forum to ensure that disabled members voices are heard not just within our own union but within the wider trade union movement as well.

We are a friendly bunch (honest!) and would be happy to help any member or branch with any issues they may have concerning disability issues.

For more information please contact the equalities officer, Eileen Dinning at West Campbell Street. e.dinning@unison.co.uk