Employers are failing to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people are not discriminated against at work, a new study suggests.
Almost one in five disabled workers has had a job offer withdrawn because of their health, despite employers being legally obliged to make sure these workers aren’t “substantially disadvantaged” when doing their jobs.
“I was made to feel worthless,” said Yvonne, from London, who was forced to give up work after not receiving any support for her disability.
“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.”
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Many disabled people have been “frozen” out of work due to their condition, according to the research by disability charity Leonard Cheshire.
Three out of four had stopped work because of a disability or health condition, they survey of 1,600 disabled adults found, and almost one in five who had applied for a job in the past five years said the employer withdrew the offer as a result of their disability.
A separate poll of 500 managers showed that two thirds believed the cost of making workplace adjustments were a “barrier” to employing a disabled person.
Neil Heslop, chief executive of 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."”
Being made to feel unwelcome in one workplace can also affect the confidence disabled people feel when applying for other jobs – but Leonard Cheshire hopes to change this.
Ima, from London, got support from the charity’s ACE (Able, Capable, Employable) programme to help her return to work. It offers tailored one-to-one support and specialist advice to disabled people seeking new employment.
“I lacked confidence and found trying to get back into work very difficult,” she said. “The programme has had a positive effect on me. I can now push myself out of my comfort zone, meet people, achieve more and just feel better about my life all round.”
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,” she added. “It is shocking that so many are overlooking the positive contribution disabled people can make to their organisation.”
Heslop added that these straightforward measures exist to prevent those in work from falling out of employment due to their disability. “More employers need to seize the opportunity of the untapped talent of disabled people,” he said.