Workplace policies don't account for the needs of disabled employees
Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of the union reps responding to the TUC’s 2016 Equality Audit said that disability-related sickness absence was the number one equality issue they dealt with at work.
The finding comes from a TUC study published today, marking the first day of Disability History Month. Disability-related sickness absence was the top equality priority in both public and private sectors, and in all regions and nations of the UK except London.
Reps told the TUC that disabled people can have higher or more frequent rates of sickness absence, but that workplace policies were not adjusted to account for this. They said more work was required to ensure managers had adequate training to manage disabled workers.
Most disability-related sickness absence can be more effectively managed through better policies, implemented in partnership with staff unions.
Reasonable changes to the working patterns of disabled members of staff – such as being able to work flexibly or work from home and to have time off for medical appointments – would minimise disability-related sickness absence and discrimination. Such policies should be led by disabled people rather than imposed from above.
Employers can do much more to remove the barriers that prevent disabled people from working. Adjusting working patterns, open communication with staff and good equality policies all help.
The TUC’s top five tips for union reps supporting disabled people at work are:
- Bring disabled workers together to discuss workplace policies and suitable adjustments
- Suggest disability awareness training for managers and union reps
- Ensure effective reasonable adjustments – such as working from home, flexible working arrangements, changes to IT and software and adjustments to any duties – are in place for disabled workers
- Ensure disability-related absence is part of the sickness absence procedure
- Negotiate paid disability leave, separate to sickness absence
Huma Munshi is the Disability and LGBT Equality Policy Officer for the TUC
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