riday, 6 December, 2002, 04:16 GMT TUC attacks firms over disabled
Not all workplaces obey the spirit of the law

UK companies are still discriminating against disabled workers despite legislation to protect staff, the TUC says in a new report.

The TUC said health and safety grounds were being used to refuse jobs to disabled people despite the legal protection of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Employers have to make reasonable adjustments to remove workplace health risks for a disabled worker, rather than simply exclude the staff member, the TUC pointed out.

The union organisation found evidence of wheelchair users being refused jobs because they would not be able to escape from a building during a fire, or could "get in the way" of colleagues.

Very often employers are looking for the problem and not for the solution

Owen Tudor

TUC A disabled student made the news recently when he was classed as a fire risk because of the firefighters strike.

Disability-related absence was also regarded as sickness absence by some employers, with knock-on effects for disciplinary procedures.

TUC general secretary John Monks said: "Safety is a poor excuse for discriminating against disabled people and it is not allowed by the law, which requires employers to remove the risks to people, not remove the people who may be at risk."

Owen Tudor from the TUC told the BBC: "We've got examples of people who have been told by their employers that they are the problem that they are the safety hazard.

He gave an example of a person with poor eyesight who was working in a cinema.
"The employer repainted the entire cinema in dark colours and started storing things on the stairs.

"Sighted people were falling over these things as well. But when the blind person complained they were told they were the hazard and they should lose their job."

Mr Tudor said disabled workers were protected by the Disability Discrimination Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act if their employers were behaving incorrectly.

"Very often employers are looking for the problem and not for the solution," he said.