Sun allergies: More than a skin irritation

Ceire Watson

July 26 2019

You might not think it, but sun allergies are quite common. 

For example, spending long periods working in sunlight can lead to skin rash. What’s worse, allergic reactions vary from person to person, making it difficult to predict the impact.

In some cases, sun allergies may have a long-term effect on an employee’s ability to carry out normal work tasks.

Discrimination risk

While a skin rash might seem like a simple irritation, sun allergies are often considered a disability. An employee who suffers from one may be entitled to protection under the Disability Discrimination Act, 1995.

Take this into consideration the next time an employee complains of a sun allergy. Dismissing them may lead to a discriminatory unfair dismissal claim at tribunal.

Health & safety obligations

The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance for employees who work outdoors and may be exposed to the sun.

As an employer, you also have to take reasonable steps to reduce the risks for your employees. This includes sun protection advice in health & safety training. It might seem obvious, but encouraging your workers to cover up during the summer months and to use sunscreen will help.

Water points and shaded rest areas should also be provided.

Reasonable adjustments

It’s important to assess whether an individual employee is at higher risk due to the severity of their allergy. As their employer, you’re obliged to consider what adjustments you could make to minimise their exposure to sunlight. A temporary alternative role is also an option.

Perhaps the employee’s allergy doesn’t stop them coming to work, but it does prevent them from doing their job.

If this is the case, arrange a medical to determine their condition. To do this, you’ll need the employee’s permission of course. An appropriate decision can then be made once the medical report has been obtained.

The course of action may not necessarily lead to termination of employment. However, it could lead to medical suspension until the employee is no longer exposed to risk.

Need help with an employee’s medical condition? Contact our expert employment law advisors 24 hours a day on 0800 917 0771.

Or, if you would like one of our advisors to call you back, you can use our contact form by clicking here. You can expect a response within two working hours of an enquiry.

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