If a member of staff declares a disability for the REF, is the institution 'deemed to know' about the staff member's disability?
Disability monitoring information is collected through different channels within an institution, for example through HR processes or processes relating to the Research Exercise Framework (REF). This information supports institutions in meeting some of their legal responsibilities under the Equality Act, for example in:
- Showing due regard to the public sector duty (see ECU briefings on the public sector duty)
- Initiating discussions with staff around specific reasonable adjustments (see Duty to make reasonable adjustments, pages 82-84 of the EHRC Code of Practice on Employment)
- Ensuring an institution does not treat a disabled person unfavourable 'because of something arising in consequence of the disabled person's disability' (see Discrimination arising from disability, pages 74-77 of the EHRC Code of Practice on Employment)
To meet these legal responsibilities effectively HEIs must develop a way of bringing the information from different channels together.
The institution will be 'deemed to know' about a staff member's disability if this information is collected during the REF, as with other sources of information collected by an institution around disability.
With the consent of the individual, the institution should seek to pass on the information to the appropriate department, to help meet responsibilities relating to reasonable adjustments and prevent discrimination (see pages 74-77 and 82-84 of the EHRC Code of Practice on Employment.)
Staff should have the opportunity to disclose information within a particular process without having to consent to their information being shared further. It is therefore important that the reasons for sharing information are made clear to staff so they can make an informed choice around consenting. It is also important that opportunities to disclose disability information are available throughout all relevant processes within an institution to mitigate any risk of discriminating against disabled people.