Disabled people frozen out of work

Almost three-quarters (73%) of disabled workers in the UK have stopped working because of a disability or health condition, according to disability charity Leonard Cheshire

The findings revealed a difficult landscape for individuals with disabilities. Sixty-six per cent of managers said that the cost of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing a person with disabilities – up from 60% in 2017.

Almost a quarter (24%) of UK employers said they would be less likely to hire someone with a disability, and 17% of those that had applied for a job in the past five years said the employer withdrew the job offer as a result of their disability.

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 past 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 adjustments that could support them at work, such as assistive technology or flexible working.

More encouragingly, Leonard Cheshire’s research found 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 past 18 months they have hired a disabled person, with a rise from 69% in 2017 to 79% in 2018.

But Neil Heslop, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said that employers must do more to challenge outdated views of disability.

“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,” he said.

“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 because of 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 All of us must redouble our efforts to challenge outdated attitudes to disability and accelerate the positive change that enables talented individuals to gain and keep jobs.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, added that even small changes at work could make a "dramatic" difference.

“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," she said. "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.”

Leonard Cheshire’s latest research also revealed increased awareness among UK employers of the government’s Access to Work scheme, up to 59% from 41%. However, of the disabled people who say they currently receive or have previously received Access to Work’s support, 69% reported waiting more than three months for their application to be approved.

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.