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International Day for Persons with Disabilities

Today is the United Nations international day for Persons with disabilities around the world. Their message is that disability equals diversity, not disadvantage and to highlight this the UN has marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities since 1992, to spread the word on disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of disabled people.

There are around 13.3 million disabled people in the UK, with 17% being born with a disability but the majority acquiring their disability later in life.  According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2019 disabled people in the UK were 28. 6 % less likely to be in employment than non – disabled. With 800,000 disabled children under the age of 16 (that’s one child in 20), many families are juggling work with caring for a disabled child.

These figures highlight how significantly disability affects millions of people and their families every day and how it’s impacts are woven in to the lives of millions of workers. The  fact that most people live with acquired disability, means that many of your employees will become disabled whilst they are working for you, and will need support from you as their employer.

We have recently celebrated 25 years since The Disability Act 1995, now incorporated into the Equality Act 2010 which sets out the protections for disabled people in the workplace and in the provision of services. 7.7 million working age people in the UK have a disability. Given that the unemployment rate (calculated as a proportion of the economically active population) for disabled people was more than twice that for non-disabled people (6.7% compared with 3.7% in 2019) at around 300,000 unemployed disabled people in 2019, work still needs to be done by employers to ensure that they are attracting disabled candidates and are offering them the support they need to undertake their roles.

Supporting Disabled People at Work – what can you do?

Key pathways to support disabled people into work are contained in the Disability Confident and the Access to Work schemes. Over 18,000 organisations have signed up to  being  Disability Confident,  and help play a leading role in changing attitudes for the better by  changing behaviour and cultures in their own businesses, networks and communities, and reaping the benefits of inclusive recruitment practices.

Disability Confident helps employers recruit and retain great people, and draw from the widest possible pool of talent, secure high quality staff who are skilled, loyal and hardworking, improve employee morale and commitment by demonstrating that you treat all employees fairly. It also helps customers and other businesses identify those employers who are committed to equality in the workplace. To be recognised as a Disability Confident Committed employers agree to the Disability Confident commitments and identify at least one action that they will carry out to make a difference for disabled people.

Business Benefits of being Disability Confident

The commitments are inclusive and include accessible recruitment, communicating vacancies, offering an interview to disabled people, providing reasonable adjustments and supporting existing employees all of which are not just important practices to support our disabled population but are key to ensure a diverse, inclusive and accessible workplace – benefitting a sustainable and attractive culture. Your business may be doing these things already. If so, the scheme is a great way of letting everyone know that you’re serious about equal opportunities for disabled people and if not, an opportunity to look at what more you can be doing to create a diverse and great place to work.

Once you’ve signed up as Disability Confident Committed you’ll receive a certificate in recognition of your achievement ,a badge for your website and other materials for 3 years, a self-assessment pack to help you continue your journey to becoming a Disability Confident Employer

Employers often worry about the possible associated costs of employing a person with  a disability but help is out there via the Governments ‘Access to Work’ scheme. Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support grant scheme that aims to support disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support for people who have a disability or long term physical or mental health condition. Support can be provided where someone needs support or adaptations beyond reasonable adjustments. Access to Work can support your business to hire disabled people with the skills you need, retain an employee who develops a disability or long term condition (keeping their valuable skills and saving both time and money recruiting a replacement) and show that you value and will support your employees by having good employment policies and practices

Employers can also get support with the extra costs of working they may have because of their disability or long term health condition, for example, aid and equipment in the workplace, adapting equipment to make it easier for them to use, money towards any extra travel costs to and from work if they can’t use available public transport, money towards any extra travel costs for travel costs within work, an interpreter or other support at a job interview where there are difficulties in communicating , a wide variety of support workers, the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service and other practical help at work, such as a job coach or a sign language interpreter

The theme of the day this year is Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World. We all know how significantly the pandemic has affected our lives including our working lives, with the toll on mental health being one of the most profound consequences.  More than one in five working disabled people cite a mental health condition as the main cause of their disability, consisting of 17.6% with depression, bad nerves or anxiety and 3.9% having mental illness or other nervous disorders. Depression, bad nerves or anxiety are the most common type of impairments. If your employee has a mental health condition, they can be offered assistance to develop a support plan. This may include steps to support them remaining in or returning to work and suggestions for reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

A person is considered to have a disability if they have a self-reported long-standing illness, condition or impairment, which causes difficulty with day-to-day activities. This definition is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and the GSS harmonised definition. Examples of assistance to develop a support plan include flexible working patterns to accommodate changes in mood and impact of medication, providing a mentor to give additional support at work,  arranging additional time to complete certain tasks, providing additional training, regular meetings between you and your employee to talk about their concerns or a  phased return to work, such as reduced hours or less days Access to Work does not provide the support itself, but provides a grant to reimburse the agreed cost of the support that is needed.

If you would like support around any of the issues raised in this blog or if a sound boarding session about any HR or employment law issue could help don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for a free consultation or contact us at

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