3 Employee Rights All Disabled Workers Should Be Aware Of

Whilst there’s little doubt that significant progress has been made, unfortunately, there is still a large disparity between the number of people with disabilities in employment, compared to non-disabled people in work. Narrowing the disability employment gap requires a collective effort from both employers and employees, to help create wholly inclusive workplaces

In the second quarter of 2021, the disability employment rate was 52.7%, compared to a rate of 81.0% for non-disabled people. Promisingly, compared to Q2 2013, the gap between the two rates of employment has decreased by 4.8 percentage points.

But how can we continue to narrow the gap to ensure more people with disabilities are given a chance to work? Firstly, it’s imperative that both parties are aware of the rights that employees are entitled to, to ensure that they’re being treated fairly in the workplace, and any barriers to employment are removed.

When it comes to workplace rights concerning disabilities, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind. It is the responsibility of your employer to ensure that employees with disabilities are given the best possible chance to perform to their best ability whilst at work, regardless of whether they’re working in an office, or remotely. 

1. Flexible working 

By law, all employees are entitled to request flexible working arrangements, provided they’ve been in employment with the same company for 26 weeks continuously. With remote working currently in vogue, many people may have found they can be more productive, and strike a better work-life balance when working from the comfort of their own home. Particularly for employees with certain disabilities, having the option to work away from a busy office environment could mean they’re more comfortable and thus more productive. 

If you’re looking to make a flexible working request, it’s important to be aware of the necessary information that has to be included in your application. There are lots of different aspects of your current working arrangements you can ask to change, such as your hours, working location, or even taking a short career break, depending on your employer’s policy. Your employer has three months to provide you with an outcome, either accepting or declining the request. If it has been refused, they must provide you with the business reasons explaining why they’ve made this decision. 

2. Reasonable adjustments 

Throughout a term of employment, and even during the interview process, it’s incumbent upon the employer to find out whether the employee requires any reasonable adjustments to be made. These adjustments could relate to changes to company policies, the layout of the office, or extra support in the workplace. 

They will generally relate to the removal of any physical barriers that may prevent the individual from working to the best of their ability. For example, wheelchair users will require ramps and lifts throughout the office space, and further measures like lower light switches will also have to be considered. Employees should never be asked to cover the financial implications of these adjustments. 

3. Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is a UK law that provides protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation for people who belong to certain ‘protected characteristics’. These include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. 

It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single act in order to make the law simpler and more consistent. The act also introduced new protections, such as the right to equal treatment in access to goods, facilities and services. The Equality Act doesn’t just protect people with physical disabilities, but also professionals with certain mental health issues. In order to gain protection, individuals need to demonstrate that their mental health problem can be considered a disability

Do note that generally employers aren’t allowed to ask about mental health issues before you start employment, and you’re not obliged to share this information at work. However, if you want protection under the Equality Act, you will need to disclose your mental health problems to your employer.

To sum up 

Everyone deserves to be treated equally within society and in the workplace, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. For people with disabilities, it’s vital you’re aware of your rights at work, to help prevent any issues affecting your day-to-day life. If you think you’ve been unfairly treated because of a protected characteristic, it’s often best to resolve the issue informally and internally. But if the dispute continues, then you can seek help from Citizens Advice.

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