Almost half of disabled people have worried about making employers aware of their impairment or condition, research by the disability charity Scope has found. This has prompted calls for employers to create environments where disabled people are more comfortable “coming out”.
The charity found that 48% of disabled people were unaware of their rights as a disabled employee, which could suggest employers are not doing enough to inform their employees of their entitlements.
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.
The treatment of disabled people may be responsible for the startling rate at which they are leaving the labour market: for every 100 who move in to work, 114 leave.
Employers can only help employees, though, if they are aware of their condition.
“If they make the first move as an employer you feel more comfortable going to them if you have a problem,” said an account manager who suffers from cerebral palsy. “They can’t support you with anything if they’re not aware.”
It is hoped that the report will foster a greater openness about disabilities and challenges people face at work and in life.
The Scope chief executive, Mark Atkinson, 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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