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Analysis & Insights

Working with Hidden Disabilities: Key Themes from the Spring European Employment Summit 2024

11 Mar 2024

On 7 March 2024, the International Employment Lawyer hosted its inaugural Spring European Employment Summit in Dublin.

Karen Killalea, Partner and Head of Employment at the Maples Group in Dublin, moderated a session entitled 'Working with hidden disabilities' with industry leaders and practitioners in attendance. For employees with hidden disabilities, navigating the workplace can present unique challenges. The panel discussed the tools necessary to create environments where all employees feel accepted, respected, and empowered to excel.

This note summarises the key themes from the panel discussion that employers need to be conscious of.

Access to Employment Needs to be Barrier Free

  • In a time where there is very high demand for skilled workers, employers should ensure that their job application process is accessible and transparent, to ensure that individuals with disabilities feel comfortable and confident applying for roles in the organisation.
  • By providing details on the working environment, the level of autonomy that would be required of the successful candidate and the structures in place to ensure accessibility in the workplace, an employer can make clear that their workplace is a safe and functional environment for the individual.
  • The application process itself should also not place undue burdens on individuals who wish to apply.

Create an Open and Transparent Culture

  • Make the workplace an accessible place for all by fostering a culture where everyone feels safe asking for assistance to dismantle any barriers which hinder their ability to do their job.
  • Set up and signpost channels which are available to employees to dialogue with their employer regarding accessibility and support.

Be Open to Reasonable Adjustments

  • In terms of reasonable adjustments – each situation is different. Tailor the adjustment to the individual. What suits one person, may not suit another.
  • Reasonable adjustments are not always resource heavy and are often very easy changes for an employer to make.
  • Such changes may include providing a quiet workspace where there is no music playing, allowing an employee to be flexible with their hours so that the employee can travel to the office at a time where public transport is less busy, or by ensuring that workplace social events do not always revolve around sport or physically strenuous activities.

Concluding the 'Working with hidden disabilities' session, Karen reminded delegates that: "Assumptions about the impairment and capability of people with hidden disabilities is unhelpful and does not guide us to a solution. Instead communicate, adapt and support. Be sensitive and informed about the language you choose to describe hidden disabilities".

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