Is Disability Inequality the Employer’s Fault?

Posted by | January 30, 2017 | Kasmin Cooney OBE, Workplace | No Comments
Image of grey stairs with silver handle bar representing the career ladder

Working within any industry can have advantages and disadvantages for any individual, but especially if you have a disability. As mentioned in my previous blog about the impact of Unconscious Bias in recruitment and selection, it might be harder to get shortlisted for an interview if you’ve spoken openly about your disability in your cover letter. But what happens once you’ve got the job? When you get through the front door of your new career? Is everything ready for you?

A study in 2016 found that 1 in 5 claimed employers failed to make adequate provisions to accommodate their, or their colleagues’, disabilities. This statistic is shocking in a time when 20% of the UK have either a genetic or accidental disability.

According to the Equality Act 2010, an employer must consider making “reasonable adjustments” for a disabled employee or job applicant if:

  • It becomes aware of their disability and/or
  • They ask for adjustments to be made and/or
  • A disabled employee is having difficulty with any part of their job and/or
  • Either an employee’s sickness record or delay in returning to work is linked to their disability.

So does this mean 1 in 5 employers aren’t showing signs of equality in their workplace, or does it mean that they haven’t shown adequate change within their business for their employees?

So once those changes have been made, you’d expect that you would join in with your colleagues on the progression ladder of your new career? According to a study commissioned by the PMI Health Group in 2016, this may not be the case. The study showed that 37% of UK workers believe disability is still a barrier to career progression.

So while you may be completing the same work as your colleagues, you may not get the promotion you deserve.

However, this may not be pinned down to a lack of equality within your office. There may be other factors at hand – born out of lack of knowledge from the employer who only has your best interest at heart.

Purple, an organisation that provides bespoke advice to employers and disabled employees, found that 45% of UK businesses are nervous about hiring a disabled person, citing further concerns about the interview process, not knowing whether to help with tasks such as opening doors or pulling out chairs and falling foul of discrimination law.

So what can be done?

There are many solutions to this issue, but one that ranks higher above all is the need for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion training within organisations.

The common reason for inequality against yourself, or a member of your team with a disability, can stem from a lack of knowledge from both sides. You understand what assistance you need, but are unable to communicate it in an efficient way. Maybe you feel as if you are being awkward, or “don’t want to be too much of a hassle.”

But it can also come from the employer. They may be unable to communicate with you in a way that doesn’t come across as insensitive. They may not understand that you are used to this conversation, and feel comfortable talking about it openly.

Enhance The UK provide Disability Awareness Training in Organisations, and my organisation Righttrack Consultancy creates bespoke Equality and Diversity Training. Both these programmes are designed to help alleviate the awkwardness in these types of conversations, as well as providing practical knowledge, skills and awareness to champion fair, non-discriminatory practice.

Do you think disability inequality is the employer’s fault? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

 

 

 

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