Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Weekly Python #10 - Employing disabled workers

Employing disabled workers

This article is a short post which has nothing to do with Python, but is about my other area of interest : Disability and Employment rights.

In most modern jurisdictions (certainly true in the EU), it is an obligation of employees to treat disabled workers fairly and not show any bias due to their disability. The definition of disability is pretty wide; for instance in the UK it is generally defined as anyone with a recognized chronic (i.e. long term) condition.

For an employer with worker who becomes disabled, it is responsibility of the employer to make reasonable adjustments to the job to ensure that the worker can still do their role, but what does the obligation to fairness mean when you are looking to take on a brand new employee.

During both CV and interview stage a prospective employee should concentrate on the skills of the applicants - and what they can bring to the organization, rather than what they might not be able to do based on their disability. All relevant skills and experience should be seen as positives for that candidate, and training needs are clearly costs for employing that candidate. My understanding of the law [1] suggests that if there are extra costs associated with employing a disabled candidate that these should not be counted against that person unless they would be unreasonable for the company to bear.

I have an example recently which is worth recounting :

My current employer (I am not giving any names) has a strategy to try to bring everyone together into a number of key locations (in order to improve collaboration, and reduce infrastructure and building costs). The strategy has clearly stated exceptions for employees who are disabled or otherwise unable to be based in one of these locations. I recently had a telephone interview for a design role: being a member of a team completing software and network designs.

During the interview though, I wasn't really asked about my skills or experience, or what I could bring to the role. The interviewer focused almost entirely on the company's buildings strategy and how me working from home was incompatible with that strategy, and that it was "a waste of time" to talk to me any further. The role had no operational need for everyone to be be based in the same building; no secure networks, no key customers to work with daily. There was no rationale given for why being in the office was essential to the role, although I can understand that one person working from home will impact how the team works together (most of which could be overcome with an appropriate use of technology). The only "explanation" given was the building strategy, despite it not being mandatory for all employees.

I am not suggesting that every role can be executed efficiently by everyone (a person in a wheelchair would probably find it difficult to be a scaffold rigger), but there are many cases where a disabled person would be able to do a given role just as efficiently as a non-disabled person, and therefore the critical decision should be whether that person has the right mix of technical, business and personal skills to do the role.

I accept that there is sometimes a fine line between two candidates and I am not suggesting that an employer should always choose the disabled candidate, but the employer should be looking at a disability as something to adjust to, rather than something which prevents the job from being done.

[1] I am not an employment lawyer, or a trained recruiter. I am a s/w designer and developer with 27 years experience of systems and network experience, and 2 years experience of living with a disability.

No comments:

Post a Comment