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Employers unprepared for risks to disability rights post-Brexit

Businesses can't assume there'll be no legal changes around equal employment legislation

Many employers believe there will be no impact on disability employment following the UK’s exit from the EU, despite warnings that those with disabilities will be affected.

According to a survey of 1,611 people (including 140 business owners) run by the Business Disability Forum with YouGov, 39% of people believe there will be no change in disability employment laws post-Brexit, while 38% did not think Brexit would have an effect on the employment rates of disabled people.

But Bela Gor, head of campaigns, resources and legal at Business Disability Forum, warned that the business community cannot assume there'll be no legal changes around disability employment following Brexit and that employers must help advocate to ensure there aren't.

“Significant parts of the Equality Act 2010 have basis in EU law, so we must ensure that laws around disability discrimination and inclusion are not put at risk," said Gor.

The research also revealed that 47% of people believe Brexit will have no impact on the number of opportunities for disabled people, while 71% said it would make no difference to the way they cater for employees and customers with disabilities.

But Diane Lightfoot, chief executive officer at the Business Disability Forum, called for businesses to prepare for changes in the economy after Brexit to reduce the risks to people with disabilities.

“Numerous economic forecasts point to a considerable impact on the UK during the transition out of EU membership," she said. "Any rise in unemployment is likely to hit disabled people harder than it will the general population and risks growing the already huge disability employment gap. Likewise, a squeeze on budgets could slow progress in securing accessibility in our public places, transportation networks, and businesses.

“The Business Disability Forum is urging businesses to prepare for changes to the economic landscape after Brexit so that they are ready not only to mitigate risks but also to seize opportunities."

Lightfoot emphasised that recruiters should make the most of the talents workers with disabilities have to offer.

Approaching this challenge in the right ways could bring great dividends for businesses," she said. "The potential loss of a migrant labour workforce would mean that businesses must work much harder to attract the talent that they need – and that could be an opportunity for disabled people who are still hugely under-represented in the workforce; with just 49% of disabled people in employment compared to 80% of the general population."