What obligations does an employer have when coping with disability within the office?

Q: What are my obligations as an employer regarding disability and reasonable accommodation?

: Disability and reasonable accommodation issues have become a major focus of HR recently.


Ireland has legislation to protect disabled workers from discrimination in the workplace.

For example, the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 prohibit discrimination in employment, professional training, advertising, collective agreements, and the provision of goods and services.

Irish law contains nine grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, including: age, gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, civil status, marital status, religion and community membership.

The aim of the law is to eliminate employment discrimination and provide an enforcement framework to achieve this goal.

What is a disability?

According to the National Disability Authority, there is no definitive list of conditions that constitute disability.

Such a list might leave out people with significant but rare conditions. Since we are dealing with this issue from a labor law perspective, we will resort to equality laws to define a disability:

The total or partial absence of a person’s physical or mental functions, including the absence of any part of a person’s body;

The presence in the body of organisms that cause, or are likely to cause, chronic illness or disease;

The malfunction, malformation, or disfigurement of any part of a person’s body;

A condition or malfunction that causes a person to learn differently than a person without the condition or malfunction;

A condition, disease, or illness that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions, or judgment, or leads to disordered behavior. “It is important that employers understand conditions such as alcohol and / or drug addiction and depression, all of which are classified as disabilities.

Manage absence

An employer must proactively manage all absences in accordance with company guidelines, which should apply consistently to all employees regardless of the type of absence.

This policy should clearly outline the organization’s absenteeism expectations, particularly what is expected of an employee who is absent from work, whom to turn to, and when to make that contact.

Reasonable Precautions

“Reasonable Accommodation” refers to changes that would enable an employee with a disability to either continue or take a position in order to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

This can include anything from adapting the workplace and workplace equipment to changing working hours and hours, restricting tasks, retraining, etc.

When considering all of the above arrangements to facilitate the return of a worker to work, it is important to consider whether the provision of reasonable accommodation would place a disproportionate burden on the company. Reasonable precautions may only be taken if the provision of such measures would not burden the employer more than disproportionately.

It is necessary to consider the following factors and to ensure that documents are retained that support your reasonable accommodation considerations: the financial cost of the organization, the size and resources of the company, public funds or other support.

It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before making any decisions about not taking reasonable precautions. The case law is clear in that the employer must demonstrate that all accommodation has actually been considered before making such a decision.

Caroline McEnery, MD of The HR Suite, is a member of the Low Pay Commission and a juror on the Workplace Relations Commission

Sunday Indo Business

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