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Disabled employees feel unsafe returning to work

Research by disability equality charity Scope has found only 2% of disabled people feel safe following the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

Just over half (55%) said they feel anxious and one in four (26%) feel scared about doing things post-pandemic, such as returning to the office, now that the government has lifted shielding rules.

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Matt Wood, managing director of Health Management, said employers have an important role to play to ensure disabled employees are protected when they return to the workplace.

He advised HR to consult with their disabled colleagues, as every employee is different and has different needs.

Speaking to HR magazine he said: “You need to speak to your workforce to find out how they would like to work and respect their choices.

“For example, if the thought of travelling on public transport is causing your employees anxiety, then consider if they can continue to work from home or travel at off peak times.

“If your employees are anxious about speaking to customers face to face, then consider if they can be temporarily moved to a different role or continue to offer face masks and barriers.”

HR also needs to communicate business plans to the workforce to ease concerns, Wood said.

"As well as inform employees about what health and support resources are available to support them during this period of transition," he added.

"HR practitioners may also want to consider attending specialist training courses on the topic of disability and health so that they feel confident supporting employees with different needs.”

Wood said it’s important the office layout is considered when asking disabled employees to return, especially if the layout has had to change to allow for social distancing.

“It is important to consider if they are still able to move around the office smoothly with access to toilets and facilities.

“Any adaptations you need to make to your office space to accommodate disabled employees may be eligible for a government funded Access to Work grant,” he said.

According to The Health Foundation disabled people were more likely to report that COVID-19 restrictions had had a negative impact on their lives.

Just under half (43.5%) said they feel unsafe leaving their home following the outbreak and, in comparison, under a quarter (23.9%) of non-disabled people feel the same.

Wood advised HR put measures in place to provide mental health support for disabled employees how feel they need it.

“During lockdown, many employers offered additional support to protect their employees’ mental health such as access to health resources.

“It is important for your colleagues to continue to feel supported during this period of transition by continuing to provide wellbeing tools and regularly checking in your employees to make sure they feel supported and safe.

“If you have agreed to extend home working for disabled employees, establish regular ‘check ins’ to monitor their wellbeing and address any challenges,” he advised.


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