Disability leave

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2018 Health Care Service Group Conference
8 December 2017

Disability leave is time off from work for a reason related to someone’s disability. It is a type of ‘reasonable adjustment’ which disabled workers are entitled to under the Equality Act 2010.

Conference is aware that there is still inequality for many of our disabled members and they continue to be treated unfavourably at work. This inequality still happens even though the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of a disability. There is currently very little evidence of the quality and number of disability leave policies within NHS employers.

Removal of the disadvantage that a disabled employee has when considering formal action due to sickness absence would go some way towards rectifying this unfavourable treatment. Therefore, the recording of disability absence separately from sickness absence helps to ensure that disabled employees are not penalised under absence management schemes or capability procedures for being disabled.

The creation of a Disability Leave Policy is seen as good practice in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Employment Statutory Code of Practice. Doctors, employers or even occupational health, cannot decide what a reasonable adjustment is for a disabled person. A medical diagnosis can say what an employees impairment is, but it is only possible to know the effect on an employee by consulting with them about their experience of barriers to full inclusion in the workplace.

Conference welcomes the UNISON Disability leave fact sheet with model policy, which explains why disability leave is important to your branch; how to organise around it; and how to negotiate a good disability leave agreement. The second half of the factsheet is a briefing on disability leave which branches can share with their employer.

Conference calls upon the Health Service group Executive to work with the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1)use the NHS Staff Council and Partnership bodies in all four countries of the UK to promote the development of disability leave policies in NHS employers with a view to implementing disability leave policies across NHS employers;

2)collect information on existing disability leave policies within NHS employers and to share good practice;

3)circulate to health branches the UNISON disability leave factsheet and urge them to raise and negotiate disability leave policies within their employers.