Flexible working practices could help disabled people stay in work, claims report

A million futuresAccording to a new report from one of the UK’s leading disability charities, one of the main obstacles for disabled people when it comes to finding and remaining in work is a lack of flexible working opportunities. Nearly half of the 700 respondents to a survey carried out by Scope and published yesterday in a new report called ‘A Million Futures’ claimed that flexible working could have helped them to stay in work. The report claims that last year alone some 220,000 more disabled employees left work than found a new job, many of them because they were not allowed to work in ways that would help them to manage significant life changes related to their disability and work around their treatment and meet other demands of their lives. Only around a third felt they had been offered the flexibility they needed.

The result of this is that many disabled people use sick leave as an alternative. Yet, according to new legislation clarifying and extending the right of employees to apply for flexible working, an employer must be careful not to inadvertently discriminate against particular employees because of their protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 including any relevant disability. Employers are advised to be careful when flexible working arrangements would be seen in law as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.

The report also draws attention to the economic benefits of providing working conditions that take account of the needs of disabled people, claiming improvements in their inclusion in the workforce could add £14 billion to the UK economy and open up a new pool of skills, talent and experience for employers. In practice however, the report claims that too many organisations see disabled workers as ‘risky hires’ and do not offer the support and flexibility they need.

Launching the new report, Scope said: “Providing better support for disabled people must be a priority for Government and employers – and can bring benefits for everyone. For those disabled people who are able to continue working, it means they can continue working, contributing, and taking home a pay packet. Employers are able to keep hold of the knowledge, experience and contacts that often experienced disabled people can bring. Crucially, better in-work support can bring benefits to the Government, by rebalancing spending on expensive programmes back to supporting those in work.”