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7.1 Losing the services of staff who develop a disability deprives the University of a considerable asset and investment in terms of their skills, experience, and training. Where reasonable, in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act, the University should attempt to retain staff who develop a disability and to ensure suitable employment for them. Senior and supervisory staff should be aware of the problems that may be experienced by those who develop a disability, and should deal sensitively with them. Help should be sought when considering not only the possible effects of, for example, loss of health, but also consequential disadvantages, such as loss of status, financial loss, or reduced self-esteem.

7.2 Procedure to be followed by staff who develop a disability. Members of staff who develop a disability while in employment will need to inform the Head of their institution at the earliest opportunity. The Head may already be aware of a potential problem if the staff member has had a period of sick leave, but it is not always the case that onset of a disability or disabling condition is preceded by a period of sick leave. Both the staff member and the Head of the institution should seek advice from the appropriate authority and should always inform the Occupational Health Service. These are necessary preliminaries to making the reasonable adjustments to the workplace and working environment required under Equality Act and to ensuring that all the steps outlined in this policy can be taken.

7.3 Options for staff who develop a disability

There are a number of possible options to consider when members of staff develop a disability during the course of their employment, viz.:

  1. continuing in the same post;
  2. redeployment;
  3. premature retirement on grounds of incapacity;
  4. termination of employment.

These alternatives are discussed below. Any action taken should be in accordance with the appropriate procedures, as prescribed by the Statutes and Ordinances of the University, the rules governing employment by the University, and the relevant national legislation.

7.4 When a member of staff develops a disability, the Occupational Health Service should be involved at an early stage to determine the likely prognosis of the illness or disability, to monitor progress, and, in consultation with the appropriate authority, to advise on duties which may be suitable within the organization and on any special assistance or requirements. Arrangements must also be made for an assessment to indicate whether the person could continue in the same or a similar post, what type of job might be suitable if continuing in the same post is not possible, and what assistance may be necessary to enable the person to continue in the same job or to undertake a new one (eg. equipment or special aids).

The options to be considered are as follows:

7.5 Continuing in the same post. University authorities should be flexible and sensitive in assisting staff who return to work after developing a disability. In all cases an assessment procedure must be followed covering the scope for reasonable adjustments to the work environment and working arrangements. In some circumstances a return to work will require only the action outlined in Section 6. The assessment made of the steps that may be necessary to enable the individual to return to work should include:

  • alteration of premises
  • allocation of some duties to another person
  • alteration of working hours
  • transferring to another place of work
  • allowing absences during working hours for rehabilitation, assessment, or treatment
  • supplying additional training
  • acquiring or making changes to equipment
  • alteration of instructions in reference manuals
  • modifying procedures for testing or assessment
  • providing a reader or interpreter
  • providing supervision.

The Head of the institution should monitor the progress of a member of staff who has recently developed a disability and discuss with him or her the course of action to be followed and the effect that the disability may have on future employment. Work may have a therapeutic effect on a person's condition and thus may influence the choice of options.

7.6 Redeployment

If a return to the same post is impracticable, consideration should be given to redeployment by transferring the individual to fill an existing vacancy. This should take into account the job opportunities available, the entry qualifications and skills required, and the suitability of the person concerned for the available job opportunities. A member of staff who has recently developed a disability should be interviewed by the Head of the institution. A representative of the appropriate authority should be present at the interview and the member of staff may be accompanied by a staff representative. The individual's preferences and skills should be assessed in conjunction with advice from the Occupational Health Service and the Disability Employment Adviser. Where necessary and appropriate, reasonable retraining should be available to enable the individual to take up a different post.

Where there is a possibility that a member of staff who has developed a disability will face difficulty in continuing in the same post, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Wherever feasible and appropriate, a trial period of up to twelve weeks should be given to assess whether the member of staff can cope with the old job or a new one. Information and assistance may be available from the Disability Employment Adviser at the Employment Service Job Centre.
  2. Consideration should be given to a gradual return to full-time work or a permanent reduction in hours where this is possible. It may be advisable to make a gradual increase in the hours worked until confidence and ability are fully restored. In such circumstances, a medical statement prepared by the University Consultant Occupational Physician, in consultation with the member's general practitioner, should be provided which specifies the number of hours for which the person is fit to work.

7.7 Premature retirement on grounds of incapacity

Assistant staff may be considered for premature retirement on grounds of incapacity where, in consultation with the Human Resources Division, it has been decided that reasonable adjustments cannot be made and that redeployment is not possible. The conditions of service for University officers and other graduate staff are different from those for assistant staff; in such cases reference to the appropriate authority is required, and any action taken in such circumstances will be in accordance with the Statutes and Ordinances of the University and the relevant national legislation.

7.8 Termination of employment

Termination of employment of a person with a disability for a reason relating to that disability must be justified under the terms of the Equality Act, and the reason for it would have to be one which could not be removed by a reasonable adjustment (see paragraph 7.5 above). Thus if all other options have been explored and found to be impracticable termination of employment on grounds of incapacity should be considered. If this proves to be necessary, employment will be terminated in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act in relation to discrimination and in accordance with unfair dismissal legislation, and there will be a right of appeal. Anyone whose employment is terminated in this way should be referred to the Disability Employment Adviser at the Job Centre, who is able to offer assistance and support in seeking future employment