New report shows supporting disabled workers is a win win situation for the employer and employee

17 May 2012

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that disabled people continue to be put at a disadvantage in the workplace. They are not realising their full potential as they are not getting the support they need at work. The report, “A Perfect Partnership,” says that closing the employment gap between disabled workers and non disabled workers can increase the performance of staff across the board.

It found that disabled people do not want to be singled out for special treatment. They are looking for company-wide solutions that support all workers – not just those with a disability – to do their jobs effectively.

However, the review shows that employers are sometimes confused by what exactly disability means. They are unsure of who is disabled and what support disabled workers might need. The Commission recommends that the employer and disabled worker collaborating together best resolves these issues.

One of the barriers disabled people say they face is their own reluctance to reveal their disability. People with mental health conditions told the Commission that work was their best rehabilitation route. Yet they did not feel comfortable in discussing any changes in their working day that might benefit them and their employer.

There are wider benefits as the UK economy also gains from a reduced reliance on State benefits when disabled people are in work. More than one in five adults is disabled, yet only half are likely to be in work, compared to four fifths of non disabled adults. One disabled person in six loses their job in the first year after acquiring a disability, more than doubling two years later.

Other recommendations include:

  • Flexible and innovative ways of working including changes to traditional working hours and locations.
  • Professional bodies should find ways of updating professional qualifications for disabled people and people with long term health conditions.
  • Training and guidance for managers who need the skills and confidence to manage disability in the workplace.
  • Offering support and adjustments at the recruitment stage without seeking information on disability.

Commissioner Baroness Margaret Prosser said:

”This report makes recommendations that are simply good, basic management that benefit the entire workforce not just disabled staff. We need to look at how we can help disabled workers realise their full potential in the workplace through career development, training, softer skills and not just through making practical adjustments. Employers who take the initiative to manage disability in the workplace will set themselves apart from their competitors - crucial in an economic downturn.

For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 0203 117 0255, out of hours 07767272818.

Notes to Editors

The Perfect Partnership report, employer case studies and video interviews will be live on the Commission's website from lunchtime on Thursday 17 May: www.equalityhumanrights.com/perfectpartnership

The report is one of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Working Better series of publications. The research draws on a wide range of evidence including focus groups with disabled people and employers, inquiries to the Commission's Helpline and other available research. Full details are available on the Commission's research report Opening Up work: the views of disabled people and people with long term health conditions, Lorna Adams and Katie Oldfield, IFF research. EHRC research report 77.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.