Workplace assessments

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2012 National Disabled Members' Conference
2 July 2012

This conference notes the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for employers on workplace risk assessments for workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions, which includes the following advice:

• Involve disabled applicants and employees – appreciate the skills and insight they may have to find the best outcome;

• Work together with disabled applicants and employees if it is necessary to assess whether their disability affects health and safety and, if so, to what extent. In other words, work together when doing risk assessments that consider the effects of the person’s disability and when thinking about the ‘reasonable adjustments’ needed for them to enter or stay in work.

This conference believes that an effectively-organised UNISON presence in the workplace is an important element in ensuring that this advice is followed properly.

However, conference is concerned that for many individuals consulted this can be a difficult experience for a range of reasons. For example, the disabled worker may lack the confidence and/or skills to articulate their own needs effectively – often an issue with young and inexperienced workers; they could also be anxious about being seen as ‘too demanding’ or ‘a drain on resources’; they may also lack knowledge about the range and options of potential solutions available.

This can lead to workplace assessments and reasonable adjustments which are ineffective, and potentially the disabled worker being blamed for not having participated in the consultation properly.

Conference therefore calls on the National Disabled Members’ Committee to:

1. Campaign for such consultation processes to always include the option for disabled workers to be accompanied by a trade union representative or other person of their choice who can support them in presenting their needs and concerns effectively;

2. Publicise the campaign, and work with UNISON’s Bargaining Support Unit to produce guidance for branches on this issue.