3rd December 2023 - International Day of Disabled Persons
Article written by Senior Associate Solicitor, Kate Lea:
The 3rd December 2023 marks the International Day of Disabled Persons. First launched in 1992 it recognises visible and invisible disabilities and aims to promote the importance of inclusion in life and the workplace. An annual event, World Disability Day is hosted by the United Nations and encourages business leaders across the globe to value the unique contributions of disabled people.
During my career I have had the pleasure of supporting and representing some incredibly talented and gifted disabled people. Sadly, all too often this was lost of their employer, who saw them as a burden rather than the asset they could be had the business provided the support and tools needed to remove barriers and allow them to truly shine.
So, with International Day of Disabled Persons approaching I thought I would take a moment to reflect and consider how businesses can better support disabled people in the workplace.
Host a Training Session
The best way to ignite meaningful change in a workplace is to engage in meaningful conversation. Increased knowledge and awareness are key. Anyone can be affected by a disability, so it is important to ensure all employees understand the importance of accessibility to cultivate an inclusive culture. Training helps to better understand the needs of disabled workers (and customers), makes you aware of your legal duties and responsibilities, transforms perceptions and validates disabled workers.
Over the years I have seen the number of clients with neurodiversity conditions, such as ADHD and Autism rapidly increase. Employers cannot ignore such common, invisible disabilities. Symptoms vary significantly and can be difficult to understand but ignore them at your peril. It deserves repeating. Training and knowledge are crucial.
Improve Accessibility & Inclusion
In the workplace, several common hurdles can prevent disabled employees from performing at their best. From wheelchair ramps, screen readers, braille signage, accessible toilets, quiet rooms, modified IT. It is important to cater to workers of all abilities and consider how your workplace may impact a disabled person. Creating an accessible environment is not always easy and so, if you are unsure seek expert advice from the disabled workers GP, Access to Work, Occupational Health or treating specialist.
Review and strengthen policies to ensure they are fit for purpose. And remember policies are not mere ‘lip service’ but should be adhered to and enforced.
These are just a few things upon which businesses can reflect to become better employers. I do believe things are improving. However, every week cases fall on my desk where businesses have fallen short of their legal duties. There remains room for improvement.
To underline this point research published this week by the TUC made sombre reading. It suggests that disabled workers earn around a sixth less than non-disabled workers. It estimates the pay gap for disabled workers across the board is £1.90 an hour, equivalent to £66.50 a week. Over the course of a year, disabled workers earn almost £3,500 less if they work a 35-hour week. To put this in context this means that from 14 November they effectively work for free for 47 days of the year! As a non-disabled person, you would not tolerate this. Why should they?
We all have a part to play in making the workplace a better place for disabled person. Do your bit on 3 December.
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