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Earlier this month the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the median pay for disabled employees is 12% lower than those not classified as disabled. This statistics from 2018 highlight that the increased efforts to diversify workplaces still have a long way to go.

Improve attitude and perception

Interpreting anyone’s competence to undertake a particular role should never be based on personal assumptions about their abilities. Yet, Angela Matthews – Head of Policy and Research for the Business Disability Forum points out “that unjustified attitudes about what various groups of disabled people can and can’t do are still widespread”.

Take the time to ensure that sensitive and appropriate communication takes place. The report suggests that some workplaces are in danger of making assumptions about the needs of employees, which can generate unnecessary workplace friction.

Inclusive access

The ONS report further revealed that 27% of workplaces are currently lacking in wheelchair access. Working with workspace design and furniture company, Penketh Group, the ONS revealed that disabled employees are not only being discriminated against in terms of pay, they are also being neglected when it comes to the physical working environment too.

The report revealed that:

Employers can look at ways to ensure every employee has the environment they need for their work. This again leads back to effective communication with staff, as well as undertaking proper assessments of workplace need.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission explains how discrimination against a disabled employee doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful either – it only has to be “the existence of physical […] barriers which make accessing something difficult”. For example, surfaces which are too high, door handles which can’t be opened with limited dexterity and walkways which are too narrow for wheelchairs to pass through.

As Dr Jill Miller of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development points out, “businesses that aren’t inclusive – and don’t manage health and disability effectively – risk missing out on hard-working and talented individuals, and damaging their reputation among staff and customers.”

Not every disability is visible

It is, of course, also important to remember that a ‘disabled employee’ isn’t always a wheelchair user. The Equality Act 2010 describes a disability as something which has a substantial and long-term impact on somebody’s ability to perform routine tasks.

Making assumptions that a person is unable to perform certain tasks based on their appearance unfortunately can also manifest in the other direction; assuming someone is performing badly because of poor ability, rather than a need for better support or resources from their employer.

Dr Miller explains that “too many disabled people continue to face prejudice and struggle to get into employment or to remain in work, and are less likely to progress to senior management roles or to work in professional occupations.”

For advice and guidance about creating an inclusive workplace, visit the Business Disability Forum

About The Author

Elizabeth Hughes

A content writer specialising in business, finance, software, and beyond. I'm a wordsmith with a penchant for puns and making complex subjects accessible. Learn more about Elizabeth.

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