PSNI to review procedures after disability discrimination case settled

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is to review its procedures for recruiting people with disabilities following a settlement in a case involving a man with autism, ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome who unsuccessfully applied for an administration position.

Sep 24, 2021
By Tony Thompson

After the case taken by the Equality Commission, the police force and a recruitment agency are each to pay the man £6,250 without admission of liability.

The commission said the man had disclosed his autism on the job application form, but this was not followed up until he had successfully completed two parts of the three-stage recruitment process.

The third stage was a group interview and report. The commission said the man and his father made several phone calls to the recruitment firm, Honeycomb Jobs Ltd, to let them know that, because of his autism, the man would have severe difficulties effectively communicating within the planned group interview.

While the man was given extra time to read the pre-briefing and an extra ten minutes and a word processor to write up what was discussed, the commission said he did not believe that effective reasonable adjustments were made at the group interview itself.

The commission said this meant that due to his disability the applicant was not able to actively participate.

The man said: “I worked hard to overcome my educational difficulties and am now qualified to foundation degree level but I’m still aware of my verbal communication difficulties. Because of this I avoided looking for a job until recently, when I took up a voluntary post with a local charity. I was able to do a good job there with some allowances for my disabilities and it gave me the confidence to apply for the PSNI role.

“It is important that employers listen and take steps to ensure that people with disabilities are given appropriate support to allow them to compete fairly with others without a disability and ultimately the possibility of achieving a good job.”

“The result of this experience unfortunately has taken its toll. It has had an impact on my condition, self-confidence, and my trust in employers that they can act fairly with the disabled community.”

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer at the Equality Commission, said: “One of the main reasons we support cases like this is to drive change and improvement in employment practices. We welcome the PSNI’s and Honeycomb Jobs Ltd’s agreement to review their recruitment practices to ensure that applicants with disabilities are given are a more level playing field.

“Employers must plan for the possibility of applicants with disabilities at every stage of a recruitment exercise. This includes exercises such as this one with a large number of posts to be filled and a generic job description.

“The Disability Discrimination Act puts a duty on employers to remove or change aspects of selection processes that can act as barriers to disabled applicants.

“In this case, where the applicant had advised he would require help with the group interview, consideration should have been given to how reasonable adjustments could be made.

“If someone discloses a disability on the application form, the recruiter should be contacting the applicant to find out what they need to allow them to compete. Any reasonable adjustment should be tailored specifically to meet an applicant’s particular needs.”

A PSNI spokesperson said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland, as an equal opportunities employer, will continue to liaise with the Equality Commission NI and our external recruitment agencies to ensure that our recruitment procedures and assessment methodologies are fair and accessible to all. We are committed to being representative of the community we serve and encourage anyone interested in a career in policing to visit our recruitment website.”

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