Knowledge of Disabilities

3 June 2015

Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled employees. Often a disability will be self evident, therefore establishing whether reasonable adjustments should be made will not be a problem. However, the issue is not always so clear cut as there are a number of conditions which may fall into the disability definition that you might not have realised would be covered. A disability under the Equality Act 2010 is defined as:

“A physical or mental impairment”, which “has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on” the individual’s “ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

In order to make reasonable adjustments where necessary, an employer needs to have knowledge of a disability in order. This knowledge could be:

  • Actual’ knowledge - where the employee or a medical professional has informed the employer of a disability; or
  • Constructive’ knowledge - if an employer could reasonably be expected to know of a disability.

However, what steps does an employer need to take in order to ascertain whether the employee may be disabled?

Recent case law offers reassurance to employers. The Employment Appeal Tribunal has directed that employers do not have to “do everything conceivable” during the course of their investigations. An “adequate” and “reasonable” investigation will suffice. Each case will depend upon it’s own specific facts, but as long as the employer can be shown to have acted in a reasonable way, they will not be expected to have done more.

It must be emphasised that this does not mean employers can underestimate the measures they should take when determining if an employee is potentially disabled. For instance, relying unquestioningly upon an occupational health report is not sufficient. It is important that employers undertake a range of measures in order to make up their own mind. This may include holding ‘return to work’ meetings, engaging with the employee or correspondence with the employee’s GP (with the consent of the employee concerned).

Disability and other forms of discrimination are just one avenue of employment law that Alpha can support your business with. With an Alpha membership, you would have access to unlimited robust HR and Employment Law advice from a firm of solicitors that does not sit on the fence. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you, please feel free to contact us.  


  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided advice in some highly complex HR matters and they continue to provide our day to day HR advice through their "ALPHA" HR scheme. They offer a very commercial and pragmatic approach and we have always been impressed by the level of service. The members of staff are approachable and easy to deal with.

    Eurofilms Extrusion Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided us with employment and HR advice for several years and we have been very pleased with the level of service and quality of advice provided. We have no hesitation in recommending the team to any organisation which wishes to manage its employment related enquiries.

    D Wauchope, Company Secretary - McPhillips (Wellington) Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    As a large employer of cleaning personnel, we require expert and prompt employment related advice. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" service provides this in a clear and robust manner. We have been extremely impressed with the service and would thoroughly recommend them to any employer requiring expert HR & employment support.

    J Conry, Chairman - JPC Cleaning

  • Martin Kaye

    It is important for us to create a close relationship with our advisors. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" HR service is excellent. It enables us to work closely with our lawyers particularly in the complex area of employment law.

    Johnny Hobeika, Operations Manager - Sanita (UK) Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    ALPHA is an excellent, reliable, professional service which is an integrated part of our business that we could not do without.  This service is part of our structure and provides staff and business with the professional HR Support it requires - Invaluable

    Wendy Cox - Genvolt

Martin Kaye are rated 4 out of 5 based on 20 testimonials.