Working in any industry with a disability is absolutely possible, including the warehouse and logistics industry. In many cases all it takes are a few reasonable adjustments to the environment, a carefully selected role or additional equipment provisions to enable a profession to be inclusive and accessible to all but in some cases these adjustments are a little more complicated.
Disability comes in many forms, seen and unseen, life limiting and life impairing, mental and physical, all only really scratch the surface of what is a complicated and diverse topic. So, when it comes to working in a warehouse with a disability there are a number of factors you need to know, understand and consider before you apply for a job, accept a position, continue in your role or return to work after a period of absence.
1. The Law
The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for disabled people from discrimination in a range of areas including employment. This Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees (temporary and permanent equally) because of a mental or physical disability.
This means that your employer might have to make reasonable adjustments for you if you are at a substantial disadvantage compared to people without a disability due to a working practice, a physical feature of the workplace or insufficient equipment. It is important to understand that the disadvantage you might experience without reasonable adjustments being made needs to be substantial, it can’t be a minor inconvenience.
When we talk about reasonable adjustments, it is a bit of a complicated subject after all who deems what is reasonable and what is not? In a broad sense, the guidelines say that “If a feature or practice puts an employee with a disability at a disadvantage an employer should look to see what reasonable adjustments can be made” It goes on to specify “but an employer does not have to change functions essential to the role”.
In many cases, what is reasonable is deemed by the size of the organisation, the costs involved in making the adjustments and the impact those adjustments may have on other staff and the organisation as a whole. Due to these factors affecting the decisions and outcomes, each workplace, job role and employee or applicant need to be considered on their unique circumstances with an assessment and resolution being decided on a case by case basis.
Citizens Advice offer more guidance on disabilities and the equality act here.
2. The Environment
A warehouse can sometimes be a noisy place to work. It is a busy environment with hundreds of warehouse operatives, pickers and packers, working alongside forklift truck drivers and other machine handlers who are moving pallets between shelves, loading and unloading trucks and transporting goods around to assist distribution.
They are buzzing with activity and the safety of the warehouse staff is of paramount importance so strict health and safety guidelines are in place, from ensuring that the aisles are free from hazards through to safely stacked shelves, with plenty of considerations and prevention in between.
Being such vast places, warehouses can be cold environments to work in. Even in warehouses that don’t have chilled or frozen sections they are rarely warm toasty places to be. This can have a negative effect on many medical conditions and should be taken into consideration. Will additional protective clothing be enough?
If you are applying for a warehouse job, you need to thoroughly research the working environment as well as the job duties and responsibilities. It would also be an idea to research the other roles within the warehouse to see if there is scope to work in a role that is more suitable to your needs and abilities.
The very best approach is to be honest and upfront about your disability regardless of whether you are an existing employee or an applicant.
You need to be open about the areas of the role that you feel could be a challenge and offer suggestions for adjustments, equipment provision or process strategies that could be implemented to enable you to fulfill the duties of the role.
It is not all on you, it is a two-way street and the employer is required to also do their bit but working together from the outset is often the best way forward. An employer can only make reasonable adjustments if they are aware of your condition.
Only you know what it is like to live and work with your condition, everyone is different even those with seemingly similar disabilities to you have their own experiences and so you alone are the best judge. Trust in your own judgement, be honest about your limitations and be realistic in your expectations.
Excellent sources of information, support and advice are available:
- Citizens Advice Aims to give people the knowledge and confidence the need to find their way forward, whoever they are and whatever their problem.
Citizens Advice, Adviceline: 03444 111 444
- Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) Provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law
Acas helpline: Telephone: 0300 123 1100
- EASS (Equality Advisor and Support Service) Can provide support if you feel you are being or have been discriminated against. They can assist you with next steps advice but cannot provide legal advice.
EASS helpline Telephone: 0808 800 0082
- RIDI (Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative) A great website with plenty of information aimed at helping employers become disability confident and offer more job opportunities to people with disabilities. A great way to find out what initiatives are underway that could benefit you.