Code of Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities

1. Introduction

This Code of Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities at University College Cork is presented as a further development of the University's policy on equality of opportunity. The purpose of the Code of Practice is to provide a clear statement of policy in relation to people with disabilities.

UCC wishes to derive maximum benefit from the contribution of potentially valuable employees by ensuring that the abilities of workers with disabilities are never overlooked. The University takes seriously its obligation to ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly and are afforded equal opportunity.

The Irish Government has made a commitment to the employment of people with disabilities in the public service, setting a target minimum of 3% of total staff. University College Cork is committed to playing its part in meeting and maintaining this objective.

This Code of Practice has been developed by the Department of Human Resources as an integral part of human resources policy development, and in response to instruction from the Higher Education Authority. It is intended that the Code of Practice be subject to wide consultation, both within and outside the University. Drafts have been reviewed by key bodies and offices within the University, the Higher Education Equality Unit and the staff of the University. The current draft is intended for consultation with the University's legal advisors, and unions representing UCC staff interests.

It is intended that this Code of Practice is be accompanied at a later date by a UCC Handbook on the Employment of People with Disabilities.

This Code of Practice applies to all staff employed by University College Cork. Whilst it relates only to staff, this is not to say that UCC is not concerned with practice in relation to students and customers with disabilities. Practice in these areas is governed by the responsible bodies and procedures other than those contained in this Code of Practice.

2. Employment Equality Act 1998

The Employment Equality Act 1998 enshrines in law the right of people with disabilities to equal treatment in employment. UCC, as an employer, is committed to fully complying, not only with the letter of the legislation, but the spirit of its intent.

The Act defines disability as follows:

'Disability' is -

  • The total or partial absence of a person's bodily or mental functions, including the absence of a part of a person's body,
  • The presence in the body of organisms causing, or likely to cause, chronic disease or illness,
  • The malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person's body,
  • A condition or malfunction which results in a person learning differently from a person without the condition or malfunction, or  
  • A condition, illness or disease which affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or which results in disturbed behaviour,

and shall be taken to include a disability which exists at present, or which previously existed but no longer exists, or which may exist in the future or which is imputed to a person.


Section 16 (3) of the Act provides that:

  • For the purposes of this Act, a person who has a disability shall not be regarded as other than fully competent to undertake, and fully capable of undertaking, any duties if, with the assistance of special treatment or facilities, such person would be fully competent to undertake, and be fully capable of undertaking, those duties.
  • An employer shall do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person who has a disability by providing special treatment or facilities to which paragraph (a) relates.
  • A refusal or failure to provide for special treatment or facilities to which paragraph (a) relates shall not be deemed reasonable unless such provision would give rise to a cost, other than a nominal cost, to the employer.

This definition is wide-ranging, and illustrates the misleading nature of generalised statements or assumptions about the capabilities or limitations of people with disabilities in employment. UCC acknowledges the equal rights of people with hidden disabilities, and also that the same disability can vary in its impact and affect people differently.

This UCC policy seeks to treat every one of the University's employees, regardless of disability, as an individual with equal rights. Consideration of any question concerning the employment of people with disabilities will proceed from a position of presumed ability.

It is UCC policy, where possible, to avail of the range of financial and advisory supports available from state agencies and other organisations which serve the interests of people with disabilities.

3. Recruitment & Selection

People with disabilities are entitled to apply for any post in University College Cork, and to have their applications considered on the basis of their abilities, experience, qualifications and the requirements of the work in question.

No unnecessary obstacle will be placed in the way of people with disabilities applying for posts at UCC. Whilst UCC is committed to a policy of hiring the best applicant for the job, regardless of personal characteristics, the University reserves the right to utilise positive action initiatives compliant with the Employment Equality Act 1998, Part IV, Section 33, to recruit people with disabilities.

The advertising of posts, application forms, and information provided to applicants will be monitored to prevent discriminatory content. The specification of requirements which may not be essential and could have the effect of excluding people with disabilities will be avoided. Application materials will be provided in alternative formats by request.

Notification of interview or aptitude tests will include an instruction to applicants on notifying UCC of any particular needs for which prior provision could be made. Accessible interview and test venues, and other accommodations will be made upon request, provided adequate notice is given by the applicant. The University will, where possible and appropriate, utilise such facilities, supports, schemes/grants as are made available by state and other agencies to assist applicants with disabilities in the recruitment process.

Members of UCC interview boards will be familiarised with equal opportunities issues, of which disability awareness and this Code of Practice will be an integral part. All candidates will be interviewed in a manner which concerns only their ability to do the job.

A medical examination or assessment will only be required of candidates where it is a standard condition of employment, regardless of disability.


4. Workplace Integration

UCC recognises that some people with disabilities may encounter greater difficulties than other members of staff in adjusting to a new workplace. Particular attention will therefore be given to the placing of employees with disabilities and in monitoring and assisting their performance in the initial stages of employment.

Good communication is the recognised key to overcoming difficulties which arise, and UCC acknowledges that the best source of information about what is necessary for successful integration is the person with a disability. Accordingly, employees with disabilities will, where possible, be consulted on all aspects of their integration into the UCC workplace. Workplace integration measures will at all times be conducted with due respect to the employee's right to medical confidentiality.

5. Language & Communication

UCC recognises that language is a powerful and important tool in shaping ideas, perceptions, and ultimately, public attitudes to people with disabilities. The University is committed to the positive presentation of information about and for people with disabilities in all aspects of its business. Respectful use of precise, descriptive terms will be expected of staff when writing about people with disabilities and issues that affect their lives.

The University is committed to making its web site accessible to the widest possible audience, including staff with visual disabilities, and will encourage sites hosted on the UCC server to be likewise cognisant of access issues and features.

General communications to employees will be conducted via all means necessary (e.g. telephone, email, messenger, etc.) to reach all employees in a format which is accessible to them.

6. Confidentiality & Privacy

It is necessary for the University to collect information for the purposes of monitoring equality and diversity, for instance in relation to meeting the public service target of 3% of the workforce being employees with disabilities and in relation to taking positive action measures in recruitment.

UCC may, at some future time, conduct information gathering at the application or recruitment stage. Applicants would be requested to give information voluntarily regarding their status under the nine grounds covered by the Employment Equality Act 1998, including disability.

Information provided by this means will not appear in an employee's Personnel file or be utilised in any way other than for statistical purposes.

Employees may opt to declare their disability to the Human Resources Department in order to avail of accommodations in equipment, workplace, working times, security and safety arrangements, communication methods, etc. from the central administration of the University.

Information relating to a disability, given in confidence, will not be disclosed to anyone, not even the employee's supervisor/manager/head, without written permission, unless health and safety or legal concerns make it necessary to do so.

Information obtained about employees, whether or not disabled, through medical reports or assessments will be maintained confidentially.

The University reserves the right to disclose necessary elements of this information when legally entitled or obliged to do so, and to the following extent:

  • To supervisors/managers/Heads, regarding necessary restrictions in the employee's duties and reasonable accommodations,
  • To First Aid and safety personnel if the disability may require emergency treatment,
  • To Government officials investigating compliance with the Employment Equality Act 1998, upon request.

7. Career Development

UCC aims to provide to employees with disabilities the same opportunities to develop full and rewarding careers with the University as are available to other employees.

The University is committed to providing equal access to training and development opportunities for employees with disabilities so that they can further their skills and abilities, and fully contribute to the organisation.

In assigning duties to employees with disabilities, care will be taken to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that they are given the same opportunities as other staff to acquire the range of skills and experience necessary for future career development.

Employees with disabilities will not be excluded from promotion on the sole basis that their disability may prevent them from carrying out the full range of duties in the higher grade.

8. Employee Retention

Every reasonable effort will be made to retain an existing employee who develops a disability.

Measures which may be taken to retain an employee who has acquired a disability include: accommodations in equipment, working arrangements, etc.; job restructuring; rehabilitation; retraining; relocation of workspace; redeployment to other tasks or units commensurate with their capabilities (including being considered for vacancies within the University for which they are qualified); flexible work arrangements.

A medical examination/assessment may be required by the University before return to work is agreed. These will be treated with the same confidentiality as pre-employment medical examinations. There are certain conditions under which the University may legitimately not allow an employee to return to work at UCC.

These include:

  • The individual is not fully or sufficiently recovered from physical or mental injury,  
  • The individual cannot perform the essential functions of the post they hold or other available posts even with a reasonable accommodation, or
  • The individual would pose a significant risk of substantial harm to themselves or others that could not be reduced to an acceptable level with reasonable accommodation.

9. Buildings, Accommodations* and Equipment

(*Definition of Accommodation = The use of special equipment, modified duties, assistance from other persons (such as a reader or sign language interpreter), adjusted work schedules, or any other adaptive measures which would enable a person with a disability to perform the duties of a position, participate in job application and promotion processes, or enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as other similarly situated employees without disabilities. Note: The University is not bound to providing accommodations which are not reasonable in financial, practical, or other terms.)

UCC will endeavour to ensure that, insofar as is practicable, the working environment is such as to minimise problems which employees with disabilities may face.

Whilst most employees with disabilities can operate effectively without requiring modifications to their working environment, modified facilities may be required by some.

UCC will endeavour to meet these needs whenever reasonably possible, both where the accommodation enables the employee to fulfil an essential task and where it enhances the comfort, efficiency and job satisfaction of the employee.

By recognising that the abilities of a person with a disability include the abilities facilitated by assistive devices and accommodations, the University aims to ensure compliance with the terms of the Employment Equality Act 1998 with regard to 'reasonable accommodation', and ensure equal participation in the UCC workforce for employees with disabilities. UCC aspires to being sensitive to barriers which particular physical environments may place in the way of people with certain disabilities, and aims to progressively remove such barriers. The University will consider what alterations might reasonably be carried out to existing premises in order to improve accessibility. Progress in this, however, may be constrained by the wide variations in the premises occupied by the University, by preservation restrictions, and by financial considerations.

UCC will take the requirements of people with disabilities into account in the assessment of premises for purchase and rental purposes, and will undertake disability access reviews of all new building and environment designs as an integral part of the planning process.

In addition to mobility and sensory access, attention will be paid to barriers arising in terms of attitude, services and communications.

Accommodation will be by request of the employee concerned, at any stage during their employment at the University, and they will be fully included in discussions on appropriate accommodation. However, the final decisions on whether there is a need for accommodation and what appropriate accommodation will be provided, rest with the University. UCC may avail of internal or external expertise in the consideration of accommodation requests, and may utilise available grants or subsidies.

The University reserves the right to request medical corroboration of the need for accommodation as it sees necessary.

Victimisation of an employee with a disability due to their request for an accommodation will not be tolerated by the University.

10. Safety, Health & Welfare at Work

UCC will encourage departments to make specific provision for employees with disabilities in their departmental safety statements. All appropriate safeguards will be taken to protect the safety, health and welfare of members of staff with disabilities.

Workplace environment risks will be assessed for all members of staff, particularly staff with disabilities and including those who have acquired a disability.

Harassment or bullying of an employee on the grounds that they have a disability is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the University.The UCC Duty of Respect and Right to Dignity Policy applies.

In the development of evacuation plans for individual campus buildings, the needs of people with disabilities will be incorporated, and employees with disabilities may be consulted if appropriate. External and internal expertise may also be utilised. Consideration will be given to installing multi-modal alarm systems, providing reference to designated assisted rescue areas, and measures that will assist people with visual impairment in an evacuation situation.

In some situations a general evacuation plan for the building, whilst accounting for some of the more common difficulties encountered by people with disabilities, may not meet the needs of an individual. Assistance in drawing up a personal evacuation plan will be provided to any employee with a disability requesting assistance.

It is UCC policy that employees with disabilities not be exempt or excluded from evacuation drills. Rather, it is a priority concern that any particular arrangements which may be required for the evacuation of employees with disabilities be fully tested and utilised at each drill.

11. Events & Training

Staff with disabilities should have the same opportunities as staff without disabilities to develop full and rewarding careers at UCC. UCC will provide equal access to training and development opportunities for employees with disabilities so that they can further their skills, and contribute to the University to the fullest of their potential.

All events run for the benefit of the staff in UCC in general will be accessible to all staff who wish to attend wherever reasonably possible. All registration and advertising materials should state that the event is accessible to people with disabilities. It is suggested that these materials carry an invitation to participants to request accommodations or identify their needs well in advance of the event, to enable their needs to be met.

12. Designated Parking Spaces

UCC aims to designate a sufficient number of disability-accessible parking spaces at convenient locations on campus to meet the needs of its staff.

Holders of disabled parking permits are automatically entitled to use the designated spaces. Individuals who do not possess disability parking permits, but who wish to utilise the designated spaces for reasons of disability, either short or long-term, may request a permit to use designated parking. A doctor's letter may be requested in support of a permit request.

UCC reserves the right to clamp or tow any cars utilising designated parking without displaying either a disabled parking permit or a UCC designated parking permit.

13. Service Animals

Service animals will be permitted to accompany a person with a disability anywhere on the University campus where it is safe for them to do so, and where the animal and handler meet the following requirements:

  • Animals must be licensed in accordance with legal requirements and must receive appropriate routine vaccinations.
  • Animals must be in good health.
  • Animals must be on a leash or appropriate restraint at all times.
  • The handler must be in full control of the animal at all times.
  • The animal must be in use as a service animal to assist a person with a disability when in areas of the campus where animals are not otherwise allowed.

14. Implementation & Monitoring

All employees of University College Cork have a role and responsibility in ensuring that the provisions of this code are adhered to. Specific responsibility in this regard attaches to senior managers, heads of departments, centres and units, and to the Department of Human Resources. The implementation and effectiveness of this Code will be monitored on an ongoing basis by the Committee on Equality of Opportunity.

15. Complaint Procedure

University College Cork is committed to fairness and transparency in its adherence to this Code of Practice. However, should a complaint arise, the complainant should follow the appropriate procedure to have their concern addressed by the University.

Applicants for positions or promotions within UCC who feel that the Code has been violated should, in the first instance, address their complaint to the Department of Human Resources. Failing satisfactory outcome, internal applicants may wish to invoke the University's Grievance Procedure. External candidates should contact the Director of Human Resources.

Employees with or without disabilities who feel aspects of the Code other than those in relation to recruitment and selection have been violated should, in the first instance, address their complaint to the department or office directly responsible for the alleged breach of the Code. Failing satisfactory outcome, employees may wish to invoke the University's Grievance Procedure.

Shortcomings, improvements or oversights in the Code of Practice should be addressed to the Committee on Equality of Opportunity, which has responsibility for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the Code of Practice.

Human Resources

Acmhainní Daonna

Ground Floor, Block E, Food Science Building, UCC