Estimated reading time: 1 minute 55 seconds
The People Manager Toolkit often talks about barriers. What do we mean by this and what are your responsibilities?
What are barriers?
The way that society and workplaces are organised present barriers to some disabled people that place them at a disadvantage. A barrier can be physical, for example, a set of stairs; or it can be non-physical, such as a written document. They can also be found in policies or practices common to the workplace, such as fixed working hours or locations, performance management policies or expected ways of communicating.
Employers need to remove these barriers. It is easy to think that treating everybody fairly means treating them the same. However, because of the barriers disabled people face, employers may need to do something differently to enable them to work effectively and productively. They need to treat disabled people differently to treat them fairly. This is the essence of making an adjustment.
How can adjustments help?
Adjustments remove or reduce the effect of barriers. For the examples given above, adjustments might be providing a ramp as an alternative to the stairs, an audio version of the document – or software to read it aloud.
Working hours and locations can be made flexible, and managers can agree different ways to communicate with their employees, for example:
- Via a video conferencing app such as Zoom or Teams
- In writing.
These are small changes that can remove a barrier somebody is facing and enable them to do their job. Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.
Although the law only requires you to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, you probably already remove barriers and make changes for non-disabled people so that they can work for you – they just aren’t called ‘reasonable adjustments’. Many employers have flexible working policies and enable all their employees to request working patterns that fit their needs, for example allowing someone with childcare or other caring responsibilities to start work at 10am or leave at 4pm.
Business Disability Forum has an Advice Service available for managers working in organisations within our membership. To discuss any disability matters call on +44-(0)20-7403-3020 or email us at email@example.com.
Business Disability Forum also provides a range learning and development offerings. For more information, see our Learning and Development page or contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.