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Employees with invisible disabilities left to source workplace support alone

More than two thirds (67%) of employees with invisible disabilities say they have to source support and reasonable adjustments at work alone.

Invisible disabilities, also known as hidden disabilities, are not immediately apparent but can significantly impact normal activities of daily living.  

Examples include autism, diabetes, chronic pain, and many mental health conditions. 

The research, from diversity and inclusion consultancy INvolve UK, found 38% of people said a lack of support at work is due to budget cuts. 

More on disability support:

Million more disabled people in work than five years ago

Disabled employees fear conditions hold them back from promotion

Organisations should open their eyes and doors to disability inclusion

Over half (58%) said invisible disabilities aren’t prioritised as much as visible disabilities and 50% said the difficulty of the process to get support at work is not worth it.  

Maureen Dunne, neurodiversity advocate for education non-profit The Lego Foundation said collaboration with employees was essential. 

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “They must start by asking their employees themselves.  

“Most workplaces have hierarchies of some sort but when it comes to feedback loops, employers should strive to make these as horizontal as possible. That means regular check-ins and one-to-one support.” 

Dunne said inclusion initiatives will not stick if they are exclusively top-down.

She said: “It might mean forming consultation groups geared towards promoting better inclusion. You need things to be coming from all levels of your organisation.  

“If management starts implementing more and more of these kinds of initiatives, you’ll start seeing a broader cultural shift in the office and that’s something to encourage.” 

The research found 37% of employees with invisible disabilities have not disclosed their disability at work.  

A third (32%) of those who haven’t disclosed claim they don’t want to be deemed less capable than their colleagues, and 29% are concerned about being discriminated against. 

A quarter (25%) don’t believe that disclosing their disability will result in any improvements for them. 

To encourage colleagues to disclose, Dunne said HR must focus on creating psychological safety. 

She added: “When neurodivergent employees disclose, they need to feel confident that such a disclosure won't ever be used against them.  

“For example, many instances have been documented where an employee discloses and that disclosure is followed by an inappropriate reduction in work responsibilities or advancement potential.” 

The adjustments most desired by employees with invisible disabilities were flexible working hours (48%), training for leadership on non-visible disabilities (39%) and training for other employees on non-visible disabilities (35%) 

Suki Sandhu, founder of INvolve, said businesses must do more to implement these changes. 

He said: “Businesses must do better to ensure that employees have reasonable adjustments in place and the right infrastructure to enable them to fulfil their job roles and progress within their careers.  

“The workplace must be accessible for everyone, and it is saddening and infuriating that so many employees across the globe are unable to achieve their career potential due to serious lapses in a business ability to support them.”