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Disabled people still disadvantaged in the workplace, says Commission report


images2A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that, while supporting disabled workers can greatly benefit employers and their organisations, disabled people continue to be put at a disadvantage in the workplace.

Although more than one in five adults are disabled, only half are likely to be in work, compared to four fifths of non disabled adults. Those who are able to secure employment are often not able to realise their full potential as they don’t receive the support they need from employers.

Barriers to appropriate support also means that one disabled person in six loses their job in the first year after acquiring an impairment, more than doubling two years later.

The report, ‘A Perfect Partnership’, says that closing these employment gaps between disabled workers and non-disabled workers can increase the performance of all staff across the board and benefit employers and employees alike.

There are also wider benefits for the economy when disabled people are in work, with a reduced reliance on State benefits, and the talent pool is broadened simply by supporting disabled people to work.

The report reveals that, while many employers support the career development of disabled people, they also face challenges. Some are confused by what disability actually means or are unsure of who is disabled and what support disabled workers might need.

One of the barriers disabled people say they face is their own reluctance to reveal their disability. In particular, people with mental health conditions told the Commission that work was their best rehabilitation route, yet they did not feel comfortable discussing changes in their working conditions that might benefit them and their employer.

The report also found that disabled people do not want to be singled out for special treatment, but are looking for company-wide solutions that support all workers – not just those with a disability – to do their jobs effectively.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Flexible and modern ways of working including changes to traditional working hours and locations.
  • Professional bodies should find ways of updating professional qualifications for disabled people and people with long term health conditions.
  • Training and guidance for managers who need the skills and confidence to manage disability in the workplace.
  • Offering support and adjustments at the recruitment stage without seeking information on disability.

Kaliani Lyle, EHRC Scotland Commissioner said:

‘This report puts forward recommendations that basically make good management sense. We know that our recommendations need to work for both individuals and employers, but when good practices are in place, they benefit the whole work force, not just disabled staff.  We need to look at how we can help disabled workers realise their full potential in the workplace through career development, training, flexible working conditions and softer skills – not just through making practical adjustments. Employers who take the initiative to manage disability in the workplace will set themselves apart from their competitors, helping to ensure a robust and fair workplace in Scotland.

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