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This week, it’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The 3rd of December marks a worldwide focus on raising awareness for people with disabilities. This year, the theme is fighting for rights in the post-COVID era. Over the past year, the number of disabled people in employment has gone down due to the impact of the COVID-19¹. The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the employment world for disabled employees. So now, more than ever, it’s essential employers begin to provide better support in the workplace.
As an employer, you have a duty of care to protect all employees. This involves making reasonable adjustments where necessary. For disabled workers, these small changes can make a huge difference to their quality of life in the workplace. But beyond this initial duty of care, there’s a moral responsibility to improve workplace equality and support wellbeing for all. Employers are the ones with the power to take action and make that happen. And we’re urging them to do so.
One in five of the working population are classed as disabled². Disabilities can be physical, but they can be mental too. The law states that a disability is "a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day to day activities". Sometimes disabilities can be hard to spot, so it makes it difficult to know where some of your employees might need help. We’ve put together some tips below to help you support disabled employees in the workplace.
Ensure all line managers are having regular catch-ups with employees in their team. These meetings help build a relationship and open a space for conversation should an employee need to raise any issues. When there is an open, supportive environment, team members will have improved confidence discussing an underlying health concern or disability. Then you can help them to overcome any barriers they might be facing at work.
When discussing potential adjustments, try not to make assumptions about what would be best for an individual. They might not need any adjustments at all. But asking can help get the conversation going. It also shows your support. Examples of reasonable adjustments include:
Don’t worry if your offer is turned down. The fact that you offered will encourage the employee to reach out for support in the future should they need it.
It’s good to hold some basic principles in mind when communicating with disabled employees. Some people will have different views on the kind of language they are comfortable with, so if you can be mindful in your interactions, this always helps. Here are a few things to consider in your language:
If you need help supporting disabled employees in the workplace then Health Assured can help. Get in touch today on: 0844 891 0352
¹ Powell, A., 2021. Disabled people in employment. [online] House of Commons Library. Available at: <https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7540/> [Accessed 29 November 2021].
² GOV.UK. 2021. The employment of disabled people 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/the-employment-of-disabled-people-2021/the-employment-of-disabled-people-2021> [Accessed 29 November 2021].
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