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Disability equality toolkit: Disability equality FAQ

Frequently asked questions from NEU members.

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Disability equality toolkit

Useful tools for reps to help them support disabled members.

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There is no definitive list of what conditions are covered. Disability is defined in the Equality Act as a physical or mental impairment which has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long term’ adverse impact on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Long term is likely to last more than one year.

Those registered as blind, severely sight impaired, sight impaired or partially sighted are deemed disabled without the need to prove the stages of the definition.

HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis automatically qualify from the point of diagnosis.

If you are experiencing difficulties in undertaking your job as a result of a health condition, then you should speak to your headteacher/principal as a matter of urgency. There is no requirement on your employer to ensure that you have a condition protected by the Equality Act before making reasonable adjustments.

Ask your head teacher or principal if you can be accompanied to meetings by your NEU workplace rep.

It is possible for an employer to refuse your request for an adjustment on the basis that it is too expensive, but whether a refusal is valid will depend on the school’s budget and financial resources and what steps it took to look for funding from elsewhere such as Access to Work or local authority.

Seek assistance from the NEU before making any decisions to resign from your job.

The Equality Act obliges your employer to make reasonable adjustments to help you to stay in your job. The question that may arise in your case is ‘who is the employer?’, as it is the employer’s responsibility to foot the bill for reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.

If you are a supply teacher employed directly by a school, local authority (LA) or multi-academy trust (MAT), the identity of your employer is clear. However, if you work via an employment agency, the answer to the question of ‘who is the employer’ is not so straightforward. You should make your request for reasonable adjustments to the school you have been placed in and if the employer refuses, then you should contact the NEU’s adviceline or regional office for further advice.

Your request should not be discounted merely because it will inconvenience your colleagues. You should ask an occupational health practitioner to recommend that you are located in a particular classroom to help with your needs as a reasonable adjustment. If your head teacher still refuses, you should seek further advice from the NEU.

This will depend on several factors including whether your employer is aware of the effects of your condition and its impact on your performance at work, if they have undertaken a risk assessment and if they have made any reasonable adjustments to help you.

Your employer is under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments if it knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, that you have a disability, which puts you at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to non-disabled staff.

If you are put on a support plan, you should ask for full reasons for this action and what appropriate support will be put in place to help you to achieve the targets set as part of the support plan.

You should speak to your NEU workplace rep and ask them to accompany you to all meetings with your head teacher / manager.

You cannot be dismissed at a first absence review meeting. Your employer would have to follow proper procedures if they wanted to dismiss on capability grounds.

At the absence review meeting, your employer should consider and discuss whether reasonable adjustments, e.g. more time off work, a phased return to work, changes to the environment, tasks/duties, contractual changes to working hours etc could be made to facilitate an earlier return to work.

Your employer could also, if they haven’t done so already, make a referral to occupational health for an assessment. This will be an opportunity for you to discuss any barriers at work and the reasonable adjustments that will help mitigate them with an occupational health practitioner who could then make recommendations to your employer for specific adjustments to be put in place for you.

Absence management procedures should not discriminate against disabled employees. Your employer should not apply the policy in a uniform way and ignore sickness absence that arises from a disability.

If a disabled employee has some increased absences due to their disability, it would be reasonable for the employer to adjust the rules of the absence policy.

Furthermore, the NEU advocates the adoption of its Disability Leave Policy, which has the effect of excluding all disability related absences from absence management arrangements and trigger points.

Employees cannot be discriminated against because of their association with a disabled person. However, there is currently no legal entitlement to time off to care for a disabled child/person. The entitlement for all employees is to reasonable unpaid time off to care for a dependent. You should check your employer’s policy to see if there is an entitlement to paid time off work. You should also, raise this with your workplace NEU rep who may be able to negotiate for a policy in line with the NEU model policy on special leave.

You should also ask your employer if you could have a reasonable adjustment put in place to assist with caring/taking your disabled child to appointments. Although there is no legal right to this, it would certainly be considered good employment practice.

There is no legal requirement on you to complete a pre-employment health questionnaire before you are offered the job.

If you have a condition which is likely to affect your ability to undertake your job and for which you may require the employer to make reasonable adjustments, you should disclose this on the medical form after you have been offered the job. Disclosure will also mean that you access your full legal entitlement to protection against discrimination.

Your doctor’s note, or a note from the Covid-19 centre should be sufficient, however, if your employer still doesn’t believe you then they can refer you to occupational health for an assessment.

A phased return to work should be considered as a reasonable adjustment. You should speak to your workplace NEU rep or contact the NEU’s advice line for further advice.

Yes, you should make clear in your application that you are seeking a flexible working arrangement as a reasonable adjustment for your disability. Contact the NEU’s advice line for further advice.

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