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Navigating Reasonable Accommodation in the Irish Workplace

Navigating Reasonable Accommodation in the Irish Workplace. Illustration of a diverse group of people sitting around a business table. Logos for Employers for Change and Open Doors

Reasonable accommodations refer to the adjustments made by employers to the hiring process, the job, the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability or specific need who is qualified for the job to perform the functions of that job effectively and enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodation is considered reasonable if they do not create undue hardship. It is a fundamental aspect of creating an inclusive work environment and complying with anti-discrimination laws. Such adjustment can be:

  • Accessible Workstations - An employee with a mobility impairment may require an accessible workstation with features such as adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs, or assistive technology. Employers can make these modifications to ensure the employee can perform their tasks comfortably and efficiently.  
  • Flexible Work Arrangements - Employees facing health challenges, such as chronic conditions, may benefit from flexible work hours, remote work options, or part-time schedules. This accommodation allows individuals to manage their health while fulfilling their work responsibilities.
  • Job Restructuring - In some cases, job duties may be restructured to accommodate an employee with a disability. For example, redistributing certain tasks among team members or adjusting responsibilities can help ensure that everyone can contribute effectively.
  • Assistive Technology - Providing employees with disabilities access to assistive technology, such as screen readers, magnifiers, or voice recognition software, can significantly enhance their ability to navigate digital platforms and perform job tasks that involve technology.
  • Transportation Assistance - Employees who face challenges in commuting due to a disability may benefit from transportation assistance, such as providing accessible transportation options or flexible arrival times.
  • Training and Awareness Programs - Employers can implement training programs to educate staff about disabilities and reasonable accommodations. This fosters a more inclusive and understanding workplace culture, reducing stigma, and promoting a supportive environment.

These examples highlight the flexibility and creativity employers can employ to accommodate diverse needs within the workforce. Research from AHEAD shows that most adjustment requests by individuals with disabilities do not even cost a penny. By implementing reasonable accommodations, workplaces not only adhere to legal obligations but also contribute to a culture of inclusion, where every employee can thrive and contribute their unique skills and perspectives.  

Understanding Undue Hardship or Disproportionate Burden:

Undue Hardship or Disproportionate Burden is an action that is significantly difficult or expensive in relation to the employer's size, the resources available, and the operation's nature. If you, as an employer, must make changes to the workplace or work practices to accommodate a disabled employee, the demands should be ‘reasonable’ and should not impose a ‘disproportionate burden’ on you. In other words, the changes and the costs should be realistic for the business to bear.

In determining whether the changes would impose a disproportionate burden, several things are considered:

  • The financial and other costs involved;
  • The scale and financial resources of your business; and
  • The possibility of obtaining public funding or other assistance.

Before an employer can claim that providing reasonable accommodation measures or facilities would place them under a ‘disproportionate burden,’ they must look at the possibility of obtaining public funding or grants.

There are several grants available for employers to make the necessary adjustment needed in the workplace. Here are few: 

Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme (DATSS)

This scheme is for employers to provide disability awareness training. Grant assistance of 90% of eligible training to max €20,000 in year 1 and 80% in subsequent years.

The training should be aimed at providing those taking part with an understanding and awareness of the barriers facing people with disabilities. Also, an overview of relevant anti-discrimination and equal opportunities legislation.

It should also provide specific information on:

  • Disabilities and abilities focusing on mobility and sensory issues
  • Perceptual awareness exercises that aim to dispel common myths
  • Disability etiquette to clarify appropriate language and behavior

For more information check the link: Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme (DATSS)

Employee Retention Grant Scheme (ERGS)

This scheme assists employers to retain employees who acquire an illness, condition or impairment which impacts on their ability to carry out their job.

Funding can be provided for the following:

  • Identify accommodation and/or training to enable the employee to remain in his/her current position;
  • Re-train the employee so that he/she can take up another position within the company.

The Employee Retention Grant Scheme is open to all companies in the private sector.

For more information check the link: Employee Retention Grant Scheme (ERGS)

JobsPlus

JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who offer employment opportunities to the long term unemployed including people with disabilities, who are in receipt of jobseeker's benefit, jobseekers' allowance, disability allowance or blind pension.  

For more information check the link: JobsPlus

In our next article, we shall continue with the government scheme available, and laws protecting employees and obliging employers to provide reasonable accommodation in the workplace for Ireland.

For more information check the following:
For specialized training and information session: info@employersforchange.ie

For more information about reasonable accommodations and disability awareness: Home - Employers for Change

Employers for Change is a program of the Open Doors Initiative, funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The aim of Employers for Change is to provide an employer disability information service. The service empowers employers with all the information and advice needed to hire, employ, manage, and retain staff with disabilities.

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