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Building disability confidence & supporting disabled staff

To understand disability and what is available to support disabled staff

1. What is the University's position on disability?

All too often, disability can be seen as a problem by employers – something that means you are either ill or that your job performance is suffering. That’s not how we see it.

We support the view that what really disables a person are not the impairments they have, but the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers society creates by failing to take into account the requirements and aspirations of that person.

We also recognise that disabled staff members may require some practical adjustments, support or guidance to ensure, as far as possible, that you have equal access to everything the University can offer you. We are committed to working to provide you with these, if you need them.

2. Who is defined as disabled?

There are many kinds of disability, some more widely understood and visible than others. Many of us who work at the University may have a disability that is covered within the Equality Act without even realising it.

A person has a disability if: (a) they have a physical or mental impairment, and (b) the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities

  • substantial, in other words, not minor or trivial. The person is still considered disabled if the effects of their impairment are alleviated or removed by on-going treatments or aids

  • long-term – which is usually taken to mean that it has lasted, or is likely to last, for more than 12 months

  • the definition also covers people who have had a disability or illness in the past which may recur but is not significant at the present time, for example, a mental illness

3. What if I care for a disabled person?

The Equality Act also protects you if you are associated with a disabled person, for example if you care for a disabled partner, child, or other relative. Under the University’s Flexible Working and Leave Policy , staff caring for a disabled person have the right to request flexible working arrangements.

4. I think I am disabled, what should I do?

It is up to you whether or not you tell the University that you are disabled. However, the University is working hard to create an environment in which staff feel confident to declare their disability.

Telling us that you are disabled is particularly important if you might need any adjustments to carry out your job. It will be very difficult, and in many cases impossible, for the University to provide these if you do not tell us. In addition, telling us can also help the University to improve the way it works with disabled staff – for example this information can help us to assess the impact of University practices on disabled staff.

You may have told the University that you were disabled when you applied for your job here, by ticking the relevant boxes on your 'monitoring form’. This will be used for monitoring our recruitment and selection practices and for providing statistical information. However, this, on its own, will not necessarily prompt a discussion about adjustments you might need.

Staff are encouraged to record their personal data, including their disability status, through Employee Self Service . You have the right to stipulate that this information is not divulged. However, if the University is to consider any support that is necessary to help you perform your job role, it will usually be necessary to alert your line manager that you have a disability. If you stipulate that your disability status is not divulged, then it will be difficult for the University to make any reasonable adjustments that may be required.

4.1 Your manager

You should talk to your manager if you have a disability-related issue or question. Depending on your job, this person might go under another title, such as 'supervisor’ or 'team leader’.

Managers have a key responsibility for your general well-being and ensuring you have access to the full range of opportunities that go with your job. You should discuss with your manager any impact your impairment has on your work, and what adjustments you might need to do your job now and in the future. Once they are aware of the issues, they can seek advice on how to best assist you, or refer you to other services and individuals who can provide further advice and assistance if necessary.

4.2 Your HR Advisor

Whilst we would encourage you to talk through any concerns with your line manager, there may be occasions when you might prefer to speak to your HR Advisor . However, in order for us to provide you with the appropriate support, it is very likely that your manager will become involved eventually. Similarly, even if you approach your manager first, your HR Advisor is likely to become involved if a reasonable adjustment needs to be made.

Everything discussed with your manager and HR Advisor will be treated as sensitive data in line with the University’s Code of Practice on Data Protection. However, once you declare a disability, in order to fulfil the university's responsibilities and support you appropriately, your manager and HR Advisor will need to actively consider how to respond to your circumstances.

5. What support is available?

5.1 Reasonable adjustment

If you have talked to your manager or HR Advisor about your disability, you should also discuss with them any reasonable adjustments you might require. They should help you identify what you need, and put this in place where possible. If you need any adjustments in the workplace – particularly to your duties, working routine or conditions of service – you will need to talk to your manager and your HR Advisor eventually.

5.2 Access to Work

Access to Work provides practical, individually-tailored advice and support to disabled people who are in, or seeking, paid work. It is a government scheme managed through Jobcentre Plus and is an important source of funding for disability support.

If you are a new member of staff at the University, it is generally a good idea to make your first Access to Work application within the first six weeks after starting work here, because, in these circumstances, Access to Work will be more likely to cover up to 100 percent of the approved costs of your adjustments.

An application to Access to Work needs to be made by you, as a disabled member of staff; no one can apply on your behalf. However, if you need any assistance with this you could talk to your HR Advisor. If you prefer, you can apply to Access to Work without talking to anyone in the University, although please be advised that should any reasonable adjustments be advised by Access to Work they are likely to need to inform your employer so that these can be put in place for you.

5.3 Specific support and advice services

The following services may be able to provide you/your manager with additional advice or support on disability matters.

Equality and Diversity Manager

If you are disabled, or think you might be, you can arrange for initial guidance with the Equality and Diversity Manager . During this session, the Equality and Diversity Manager can provide you with confidential guidance on:

  • general disability issues and some information about the types of adjustment that could be available to you

  • how to get appropriate support, including information on other services or individuals who might be relevant to the process

The Equality and Diversity Manager cannot proactively take issues forward. For example, they do not manage the provision of disability support, negotiate on your behalf, or manage complaints related to disability. However, they can provide general advice and information about other people or services that could help with these issues. Responsibility for managing the provision of disability support rests with your line manager, with the support of Human Resources.

Disabled Staff Support Group (DSSG)

DSSG is a friendly support group for staff with any sort of disability, medical condition, learning difficulty or long-term health problem. If you want to meet people who are in a similar situation, either for support or to exchange information and experiences, the Disabled Staff Support Group may be what you are looking for. Email DSSG for more information about the group.

Health, Safety & Environment

The University’s Health, Safety & Environment (UHSE) Service is able to provide support on health and well-being matters, and often able to provide advice to you on how to improve your environment and where to access help.

UHSE can also access support from the Occupational Health service which can provide confidential advice and guidance to disabled staff. The most common procedure for accessing this support is for your manager to refer you to the via UHSE.

In some circumstances, you may also need to think about whether there might be any particular safety implications for you, or the people you work with – for example, if you are likely to encounter any difficulties with fire evacuation.

If you need more information or advice about health, wellbeing and/or safety issues, you can talk to your local Safety Co-ordinator or contact the University’s Health, Safety and Environment Service.

Other University services

If you have any disability-related access requirements in relation to using other University services – such as the Library or Sports Training Village – you are welcome to contact the relevant service to discuss your requirements. Disabled staff members holding a “Blue Badge” are eligible for free University parking .

Other external organisations

If you are a trade union member, you can contact a union representative at any stage to discuss disability-related issues regarding your employment at the University. The three recognised unions at the University are: UCU, Unite and Unison. If necessary, external organisations with specialist knowledge, such as the RNIB, Action on Hearing or other local disability groups, can also be consulted for advice.

You may also be able to get advice from a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) working through Jobcentre Plus. DEAs can provide specialist support to people who are recently disabled, or those whose disability or health condition has deteriorated and who need employment advice.

This webpage provides an overview of the support available to staff members with a disability. Any information provided about related aspects of the law is only a summary of the legal position, and anyone requiring information about how the law applies in a particular situation should seek specialist or legal advice.

If you require this information in an alternative format please contact the Equality and Diversity Unit. In developing the information on this webpage, we made use of the booklet 'Building disability confidence’ devised by the University of Leeds and made available by the Equality Challenge Unit as part of its toolkit on developing staff disclosure. We wish to acknowledge the valuable help that this resource provided in our work. 

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