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Construction and disability

In the construction industry, people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against – and employers have much to gain from taking on a diverse workforce. 

The Equality Act 2010  

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against people with a disability while they are an employee. This means that disabled workers have the same rights as non-disabled workers, such as their pay and conditions, benefits, promotion opportunities and training. 

Disability is one of the nine ‘protected characteristics’ of the Equality Act. 

Can I work in construction with a disability?  

Absolutely. If you have the right skills to work in your chosen area, and your disability does not affect your ability to carry out your duties, you will be able to work in construction.  

How many disabled people work in construction?  

According to a 2017 survey, nearly 200,000 people working in construction in the UK were registered disabled. This equates to over 9% of the total workforce (just over 2.1 million employees). Yet this is significantly lower than the 20% of adults with a disability who are able to work.  

What constitutes a disability?  

It is a common misconception that a disability means somebody in a wheelchair. Disabilities include sensory impairments, mental illness, autism, communication impairments, physical coordination issues and impairments to memory and concentration. 

people working in construction

Beneficial to all

A diverse workforce brings benefits to both the employee and the employer. For people with disabilities, a job in construction can provide a great career for life.  

Meanwhile, the industry gains a diverse workforce of highly respected employees who are skilled at what they do – and will often be very loyal to a good employer. Here we take a closer look at the subject. 

Telling the boss

Should a person with a disability tell their boss about it? This is a question many people ask themselves – especially if their disability is invisible.

Although an employee with a disability is not obliged to disclose their disability to their employer, if they do, they are protected under the Equality Act 2010

This makes it unlawful for an employer to treat them less favourably than other employees for any reason connected with their disability, unless there is justification for such action.  

It’s also worth remembering that if an employer is unaware of a disability they will not be able to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled workers aren’t seriously disadvantaged when doing their jobs. 

people working in construction

Reasonable adjustment

In practical terms in construction, a reasonable adjustment may be as simple as providing a particular type of control on a piece of machinery.

In legal terms, adjustments can aim to make sure that, as far as is reasonable, a disabled worker has the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as a non-disabled person.

An employer is not required to do more than what is reasonable and this depends, among other factors, on the size and nature of their organisation.  Advice is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Health and safety

Health and safety should never be used as an excuse to discriminate, even if this is not the intention.

Employers may need to consider adjusting the task to make it possible for a disabled worker to do a job safely.

Find out more about health and safety for disabled people

people working in construction

Assessing risks

Risk assessments are essential in the construction industry, but employers do not need to carry out a separate health and safety risk assessment for a disabled employee.

Instead, they should review the risk assessment carefully to make sure they cover any risks that might be present for that employee and their colleagues. They may then need to put measures in place to address any risks.

These may be simple, such as allowing other colleagues to do certain parts of an activity or providing suitable alternative equipment.

Financial support

A person with a disability may be eligible for an Access to Work grant to help them: 

  • Start working
  • Stay in work
  • Move into self-employment ot start a business

Meanwhile, an employer might get financial assistance through the same scheme to cover the cost of any new equipment needed when employing someone with a disability.

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