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Employees with a Disability and Making Reasonable Accommodations

One of the tougher areas of employment law within which employers frequently find themselves is the area of medical related absences due to disability. It can be frustrating to see medical certificates which restrict an employee’s ability to perform their role and place restrictions on portions of their role.

But what exactly is an employer expected to do in terms of making accommodations to medically impaired employees? According to Section 16 of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 an employer must do “all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person who has a disability by providing special treatment or facilities”

In this case we must examine what the definition of reasonable is, whilst the legislation also states that there is no obligation to keep a role open for an employee who is not “fully competent and available” to perform the duties of their role. The employer must go to lengths to demonstrate that they have exhausted all other options and alternatives before looking at dismissing the employee. Unless these alternatives place a disproportionate burden on the employer they may be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Recent case law would back up the assertion that unless an employer exhausts all alternative accommodations there is a sizeable risk of compensation should a claim be lodged. A special needs assistant/secretary was recently awarded €40,000 compensation when the High Court affirmed a Labour Court decision that her employer didn’t make reasonable accommodations in dismissing her when she was paralysed from the waist down.  They deemed as she was incapable of performing the role of special needs assistant with her disability and was dismissed. The employer failed to consider whether she could undertake the part-time role of secretary or whether other accommodations could be made.

In order to absolve risk the employer must demonstrate that they have exhausted all their obligations under the legislation or else they run the risk of compensation being ordered.

If you have any queries in respect of the above article then please contact our 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 855 50 50

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