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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taking care of staff with special needs

Taking care of staff with special needs

Words by Francis Kahihu (the author is an Organisational Development Practitioner)

Having a convenient working environment is one of the most motivating factors. Staff feel recognized when the employer provides for most of the requirements that would make their stay at the company convenient. To this end, employers should provide for office space either where staff can easily access by public means provide for joint staff transport. Some employers provide for staff meals and water and recreation facilities like TVs and video players. All these are meant to make the employees relax and settle in their minds as they go about their daily tasks.

What has been missing though is the provision of facilities to meet the special needs of some of the employees. The fact that this category of staff always forms the minority group often makes many employers not budget for the needs. A quick look at the architectural designs of most of the offices reveal the glaring fact that employers rarely consider the special needs of people living with disabilities.

How would an employer expect a staff to access an office in the 2nd floor of a building that is not fitted with elevators? Such employees have to struggle on their walking aids up the floors. The thought that an employee has to struggle up and down those floors makes a person desire less of mobility within the office. Making a trip to some facilities in the lower floor becomes a project that requires adequate mental planning. Someone must think of all the other needs he may have in the course of the day so that a single trip down stairs can be used to address other concerns.

For such staff, the employer should ensure they either provide them with space downstairs in cases where the building has no lifts or ensure office space is only procured in buildings that provide the lifts. This should also apply to the venues that the employers for instances hosts workshops. The special needs of the staff and clients should always be at the back of the mind of the person in charge of managing the office facilities.

For staff with hearing and speaking challenges, special consideration should be made to ensure they are provided with appropriate infrastructure to enable them express themselves with minimal inconvenience. Having computer software that aid with both listening and speaking could just be a simple way of making staff life easier and productive.

Finally, the life of a nursing mother can be such a nightmare at work. As much as the Employment Act 2008 provides the mother of a new born 3 months for maternity leave without forfeiting their annual leave days, it is usually a challenge for many mothers upon return to work after the leave. Child rearing and nutrition specialists encourage the mothers to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months. This means that the mothers have to seek for creative ways of managing this desire without compromising their service to the employer. One of the ways out is through expressing the breast milk and storing it. This then requires that the mother should be provided with a private facility from where she can comfortably express and a cooling facility where the expressed breast milk can be stored. It is not fair for mothers to be forced to express breast milk from the toilets due to concerns of hygiene and privacy.

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