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7 out of 10 disabled workers failed by employers

A staggering 73% of disabled workers in the UK say they have stopped working due to a disability or health condition*, according to new research from disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

These latest findings reveal an unacceptably harsh landscape for disabled workers, with:

  • 66% of managers saying the cost of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing a disabled person – up from 60% in 2017.
  • 24% of UK employers saying they would be less likely to hire someone with a disability.
  • 17% of those that had applied for a job in the past five years saying the employer withdrew the job offer as a result of their disability.

Yvonne, from London, who is taking part in Leonard Cheshire’s ACE (Able, Capable, Employable) programme, had previously been forced to give up work after not receiving any support for her disability.

Yvonne said: “My line manager didn’t help me at all and I became isolated due to my disability. I felt frozen out and took early retirement because I was so low. On my last day, nobody said goodbye or sent me a card. I was made to feel worthless.”

Barriers to employment for disabled people

Attitudinal barriers continually featured in the latest research. Of the employers that said they were less likely to employ someone because they were disabled, 60% were concerned that a disabled person wouldn’t be able to do the job.

Of the disabled people who applied for a job in the last five years, 30% said they felt like the employer had not taken them seriously as a candidate. Similarly, during the recruitment process, just 20% of these disabled applicants were made aware of workplace adjustments that could be made to support their disability, such as assistive technology or flexible working.

Neil Heslop, Chief Executive Officer at Leonard Cheshire, said: “Our research reveals a tough and unwelcoming employment landscape for disabled people despite overall employment levels climbing to record highs. Most disabled people in 2019 remain frozen out of the world of work.

More employers need to seize the opportunity of the untapped talent of disabled people. Straightforward measures exist to support individuals to get jobs or prevent those in work from falling out of employment due to a disability or health condition. All of us must redouble our efforts to challenge outdated attitudes to disability and accelerate the positive change that enables talented individuals to gain and keep jobs.”

Employers increasingly keen to employ disabled people

In some more promising news, Leonard Cheshire’s research found that the proportion of employers in the UK who say they would be more likely to employ someone with a disability has almost doubled, from 11% in 2017 to 20% in 2018.

Greater numbers of employers in the UK are also reporting that in the last 18 months they have hired a disabled person, with a rise from 69% in 2017 to 79% in 2018.

Alex Gemmell at BBC Studios, who took on a disabled intern as part of Leonard Cheshire’s Change100 programme, said: “Some preparation may be necessary but many of the changes we made were common sense and likely to benefit everyone in the organisation, not just the Change100 candidates.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Even the smallest of changes can make a dramatic difference in helping a disabled person achieve their full potential at work. Reasonable adjustments in the workplace aren’t just the right thing to do, they are a legal requirement, and it is shocking that so many are overlooking the positive contribution disabled people can make to their organisation.

Employers need to make a change now and we need them to monitor recruitment, retention and progression of disabled staff. Once they understand the full picture, they will be able to take action to remove the barriers faced by disabled people.”

Awareness of Access to Work

Leonard Cheshire’s latest research also reveals increased awareness amongst UK employers of the government’s Access to Work* scheme, up to 59% from 41%.

However, of the disabled people who say they currently received or have previously received Access to Work’s support, 69% reported waiting more than three months for their application to be approved. Tellingly, only 23% of disabled people in the UK currently receive or have previously received support through Access to Work.

Leonard Cheshire is now calling on the government to strengthen and promote the scheme.

By Leonard Cheshire

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