Living with Erb’s Palsy requires a number of adjustments to be made both at home and at work. The key to this is information and understanding. At home there is likely to be a support network and specialist help at hand, but at work it is often the case that a lack of knowledge and compassion can lead to an Erb’s Palsy sufferer facing disadvantages and discrimination, which can all add up to making the recovery process slower.

How does the law protect Erb’s Palsy sufferers?

A good employer will have effective procedures in place to meet the needs of disabled employees, but that might not always be the case, and even if it is, your employer may need to undertake specific actions relating to your individual needs and a level of understanding may not necessarily exist already.

The Equality Act 2010 was designed to help employees overcome these disadvantages, and it imposes a positive duty on employers to help staff and to make what is referred to as ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to achieve this. In general terms, this means that an employer should make changes to accommodate a staff member with a disability, so that they can perform their role as safely and as easily as any other member of staff. Such reasonable adjustments apply to the recruitment process as well as an employee returning to work after an injury.

In most cases these reasonable adjustments cost nothing to implement, and only require a re-design of a workstation or a slight amendment to procedure, but Access To Work grants are available to meet certain costs, or for specialist assessments to help the employer with this process.

What is considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’?

The Equality Act does not define what a reasonable adjustment is, as this will vary according to individual situations. However, an assessment of what is ‘reasonable’ will take into account the size of the organisation and the amount of resources available in terms of people, equipment and finance. It will also consider how practicable it would be to implement a particular adjustment, ie. cost, disruption and how it affects other people and processes, or if there are health and safety implications.

Examples of a reasonable adjustment include physical changes to the work environment or a work station, such as a new chair or keyboard, or voice-activated software. It could also simply mean lowering a desk or modifying an entrance. A reasonable adjustment could extend to changing the job partially or completely, or sharing certain tasks with a colleague. Working hours also come into consideration and an employee could request flexible hours or part-time working, or they could request additional support or training to carry out their job to an agreed standard.

How can an employer help an Erb’s Palsy sufferer?

An Erb’s Palsy sufferer returning to work can request reasonable adjustments, but an employer can help in establishing what reasonable adjustments might be needed by carrying out a thorough workplace assessment.

This involves organising the workplace so it is effective for the employee and this may give rise to specific requirements in terms of equipment or the help of colleagues. Such an assessment should also consider what therapeutic input the employee needs. A ‘reasonable’ level of time off that can be accommodated by the organisation should be granted for this by the employer.

If an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments or an employee finds that they are treated less favourably because of their disability, then a disability discrimination claim can be made under the Equality Act 2010. Such discrimination can be direct (on the basis that the employee has been treated less favourably because of their disability) or indirect (where a rule, practice or policy places the employee at a disadvantage).  The Employment Tribunal can award unlimited damages for a discrimination claim.  and any change that puts the employee at a disadvantage can result in unlimited damages being sought at an employment tribunal. This emphasises how employers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ensure they treat employees with a disability fairly.

If you need advice on how to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace for someone who has Erb’s Palsy, please contact

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