Asking about disabilities can be difficult. While you can provide a section on your application form asking any prospective employees to tell you if they are disabled, they are not obliged to tell you this and it poses a risk if you do not then offer that person a position as they can claim that they were turned down due to being disabled.
The only questions about disability you can legitimately ask before the interview are those designed to find out if any applicant needs reasonable adjustments for the recruitment process, such as for an assessment or an interview, and to establish their ability to carry out a function that is absolutely fundamental to that job. Once you have decided to offer the job you can then approach the candidate to find out about any reasonable adjustments they need to enable them to carry out the role.
However, even this may not be sufficient to identify any hidden disabilities. There are still a lot of assumptions made and stigma attached to mental health and learning disabilities. This can mean that employees are reluctant to discuss their conditions. Some conditions can be undiagnosed. For example, it is estimated that 10% of the population has Dyslexia but for some people be undiagnosed, particularly if it was not well recognised when they were going through education.
There are to main steps you need to take to ensure that you can identify and support hidden disabilities. First and foremost you need to make sure that your company culture encourages employees to believe that you will be supportive of your employees. Secondly, if an employee is struggling with and aspects of their job then you need to actively sit down and discuss the problem with them.
Talking to your employee, and making it clear that you are trying to find positive solutions, may help you identify what the difficulties are, if they could be due to a disability and what steps you can take to resolve them. The solutions may be simple, such as giving clearly defined goals, having a set of clearly written instructions or reorganising duties to play to each individual’s strengths.
For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.
by Ellen Singer