Law At Work (“LAW”) – the Channel Islands’ human resources, employee relations and health and safety specialist – is urging business owners to take a pragmatic approach to the Island’s newly passed disability discrimination law.
LAW is concerned that a recent headline in the local media (‘Improving disabled access could bankrupt small firms’) could give the impression that adjustments will cost thousands of pounds.
Patrick Guyomard, Health and Safety Associate Director at LAW, said: “Headlines about small businesses going bust are worrying, but how great a concern are ‘costly premises changes’? After all, similar legislation has been in place for some years without headlines on the mass closure of small businesses.
“Perhaps a more measured approach would be to think about access and business development in general as with 14,000 people registered as disabled in Jersey, there may be a business case to consider. Improving access with an aging population, or for parents pushing buggies, will be a ‘hidden’ benefit and could increase the pool of potential employees, customers and visitors to your business. Of course, improving access will still cost money but the legislation mentions ‘reasonable’ adjustments, which takes into account, among other things, the size and nature of the business and the cost of the adjustment.
“Reasonable adjustments could be simply removing clutter from retail environments, changing fixed seating to moveable chairs or just moving a sign or switch to wheelchair height. Ramps are always mentioned as a significant cost but temporary ramps can be used – and removed when not in use – and floors can be adjusted to provide shallow gradients to avoid steps, when budgets allow.”
“Whatever the decision, the best thing is to identify the issues so that sensible management decisions can be made.”