As most people know, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability.  Reasonable means what is reasonable for both the individual and the organisation, there is no definitive definition of reasonable because what is reasonable for one organisation might not be reasonable for another.

Of course, you cannot make adjustments if you do not know that someone has a disability.  But you are required to draw conclusions – if someone has a white stick and a guide dog or they come to work using a wheelchair it would be difficult for you to defend yourself by saying the employee had not told you that they have a disability!  But if the disability is hidden, such as heart disease, then you cannot be expected to know if the employee hasn’t told you.

Not every impairment is a disability.  The Equality Act 2010 sets out some exemptions.  Alcoholism, for example, is not a disability although some of the side effects might be a disability.  Hayfever is not a disability.  Visual impairments that are correctable are not disabilities, for example severe shortsightedness is not a disability if spectacles correct the problem.  Just for completeness, kleptomania, voyeurism and a tendency to set fires are not disabilities however much your employee tries to tell you they are as a result of a mental impairment!

Allergies are only a disability if they have a severe longterm adverse effect on day to day activities.  So, an allergy to oranges might prevent an individual going anywhere where there are likely to be oranges and that would have a profound effect on day to day activities but a shellfish allergy is probably not a disability because it is easily avoided.

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