A staggering 74% of disabled workers in Northern Ireland have stopped working due to a disability or health condition, according to the latest research from disability charity Leonard Cheshire. **
These latest findings reveal an unacceptably harsh landscape for disabled workers across the UK, with:
* 24% employers saying they would be less likely to hire someone with a disability.
* 66% of managers saying the cost of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing a disabled person – up from 60% from 2017.
* 17% of those that had applied for a job in the past five years saying the employer withdrew the job offer as a result of their disability.
Libby, who was forced to give up work after becoming disabled, said: “Losing my career was the single worst thing about becoming disabled.
“I could accept the loss of mobility and everything else, but the loss of being able to do the job that I wanted to do and love was the most devastating thing. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I know how much I have to offer.”
Attitudinal barriers continually featured in the latest research. Of the employers across the UK that said they were less likely to employ someone because they were disabled, 60% were concerned that a disabled person wouldn’t be able to do the job. Of the disabled people in the UK who applied for a job in the last five years, 30% said they felt like the employer had not taken them seriously as a candidate.
Similarly, during the recruitment process, just 20% of these disabled applicants were made aware of workplace adjustments that could be made to support their disability, such as assistive technology or flexible working.
Neil Heslop, Chief Executive Officer at Leonard Cheshire, said: “Our research reveals a tough and unwelcoming employment landscape for disabled people despite overall employment levels climbing to record highs. Most disabled people in 2019 remain frozen out of the world of work.
“More employers need to seize the opportunity of the untapped talent of disabled people. Straightforward measures exist to support individuals to get jobs or prevent those in work from falling out of employment due to a disability or health condition. All of us must redouble our efforts to challenge outdated attitudes to disability and accelerate the positive change that enables talented individuals to gain and keep jobs.”
In some more promising news, Leonard Cheshire’s research found the proportion of employers in the UK who say they would be more likely to employ someone with a disability has almost doubled, from 11% in 2017 to 20% in 2018. Greater numbers of employers in the UK are also reporting that in the last 18 months they have hired a disabled person, with a rise from 69% in 2017 to 79% in 2018.
Alex Gemmell at BBC Studios, who took on a disabled intern as part of Leonard Cheshire’s Change100 programme, said: “Some preparation may be necessary but many of the changes [we made] were common sense and likely to benefit everyone in the organisation, not just the Change100 candidates.”
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Even the smallest of changes can make a dramatic difference in helping a disabled person achieve their full potential at work. Reasonable adjustments in the workplace aren’t just the right thing to do, they are a legal requirement, and it is shocking that so many are overlooking the positive contribution disabled people can make to their organisation. Employers need to make a change now and we need them to monitor recruitment, retention and progression of disabled staff. Once they understand the full picture, they will be able to take action to remove the barriers faced by disabled people.”
Leonard Cheshire’s latest research also reveals increased awareness amongst UK employers of the government’s Access to Work*scheme, up to 59% from 41%. However, of disabled people who say they currently received or have previously received Access to Work’s support, 69% in the UK reported waiting more than three months for their application to be approved.
Only one in ten disabled people in Northern Ireland were found to have ever used Access to Work – the lowest proportion of any region in the UK. Leonard Cheshire is now calling on the government to strengthen and promote the scheme.
** Northern Ireland (74%/over seven in ten) Scotland (71%/over seven in ten), Wales (69%/almost seven in ten). Figures are based on disabled people who have, at any time, had to stop working due to a disability or health condition.