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Disabled people worry about telling employers of their condition

Charity calls on businesses to create workplaces where employees feel free to speak about disability

Mark Gould

Monday, 06 November 2017

Almost half of disabled people have worried about making employers aware of their impairment or condition, research by the disability charity Scope has found.

In its report Let’s talk: Improving conversations about disability at work, the charity found that 48% of disabled people questioned have worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer. Only half of disabled people surveyed (49%) are aware of their rights as a disabled employee.

The report quotes case studies of disabled people who said they experienced negative comments from talking about their impairment or condition at work. However, some disabled people who had positive experiences said this helped them to get the support they needed. More than one in four disabled people also believe they have missed out on being offered a job because of their condition or impairment.

One woman applied for more than 100 jobs without success but suddenly began being offered interviews after not disclosing she was disabled in applications, Scope discovered.

A GP was discouraged from using her wheelchair at work, which would result in missing meetings in parts of the building she could not reach wearing her leg braces.

Others reported that they had been regularly sneered at and encountered discrimination in the workplace.

Scope is calling on employers to create inclusive workplaces where disabled people can be themselves and share information about their impairment or condition on their own terms. It also wants the government to improve information and resources for employers and ensure disabled people can access the right support whilst in work.

Mark Atkinson, chief executive of Scope, said: “This report should be a wake-up call for businesses as it exposes the real challenges thousands of disabled workers face every day when trying to access the vital support they are entitled to.

“We need to drastically transform workplace culture so all employees are confident requesting support and can discuss their impairment or condition on their own terms.”

Employers who don’t make their workplace genuinely inclusive, he argues, will lose hugely valuable members of their team because they are unable to stay or progress in that job.

“We can and must solve this problem, but employers and the government must act now to ensure workplaces are truly inclusive and HR policies on equality aren’t just a document on a shelf.”

Emma Satyamurti, a partner in the employment law team at law firm Leigh Day, which sponsored the research, said: “This research clearly identifies the need for employers to understand the experiences of their disabled members of staff better and to create a culture where they feel safe to openly discuss their needs.

“All companies – large and small – should be taking steps to review and build on their practices and policies so disabled people are able to confidently access the right support to carry out their work and thrive in their careers.”

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