The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act has been in place in India since 2016. The new law protects disabled persons in India from various forms of discrimination, ensures their access to equal employment opportunities, and enhances their societal participation.
For a manager, avoiding discrimination in the workplace isn’t just down to memorising the act but is very important when it comes to ensuring employees feel safe and respected. Here are 5 examples of how to avoid and manage disability discrimination in the workplace.
Each disability is different and each person with a disability requires different assistance in the workplace. It is important not to assume that the way a previous disabled employee required help from management will work for the next employee. Managers need to set aside time to communicate with every employee with a disability about what help they need to make their work life safe and easy as well as the terminology they would like used when speaking about themselves and their disability. There is less chance of a dispute where the person with a disability is involved from the start. Such discussions should not, of course, be conducted in a way which would itself give the disabled person any reason to believe they were being discriminated against.
Consider whether expert advice is needed
It may be helpful when avoiding discrimination to use personal, or in-house, knowledge and expertise. This might be particularly appropriate in a situation where a person is newly disabled or the effects of someone’s disability alter. It may also help to get advice on what might be done to change premises or working arrangements.
It is good practice for an employer not to wait until a disabled employee is hired to think about the needs they may require. When planning for a change it could be cost-effective to consider the needs of a range of possible future disabled employees, clients, and applicants. There may be helpful improvements that could be built into plans. For example, a new telecommunications system might be made accessible to deaf or partially deaf people, even if there are currently no hearing-impaired employees in the workplace.
Know codes of practice
The Government and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights have produced a number of codes of practice, explaining legal rights and requirements. It is important for managers and employers to have these on hand when a disabled employee may face an issue involving discrimination. These codes are practical guidance – particularly for disabled people, employers, service providers, and education institutions – rather than definitive statements of the law. However, courts and tribunals must take them into account. In India, the Disabilities Act of 2016 is in accordance with the principles codified in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and replaces the previous legislation – Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.
Make sure that you keep records of all conversations on any matters you, as an employer, and an employee with a disability have discussed and agreed upon and in the case where a conversation hasn’t come to an agreement. Always write to the employee to confirm the discussions and outcomes.
Of course, these examples can’t apply to every situation and only indicate what should or should not be done in these and other broadly similar types of situations. They cannot cover every possibility, so it is important for managers to consider carefully how the guidance applies in any specific circumstances. There are many more ways of avoiding disability discrimination in the workplace.
Check out some of them in Bookboon’s employers guide to Disability Discrimination in the Workplace by Kate Russell here: