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Returning to work: disabled people’s jobs and health under threat

19 May 2020

Employers are denying disabled people paid leave to remain at home if they cannot show a government letter ‘proving’ that their impairments put them at greater risk of Coronavirus, according to The Guardian.

Despite petitions from disabled people’s organisations to government to expand the criteria of its list of extremely vulnerable people, many people with high-risk conditions are still being overlooked.

Researchers at University College London have warned that eight million people with underlying health conditions should be shielding, rather than the government’s list of just over two million.

People shielding in line with Public Health England guidance are entitled to statutory sick pay, but this only applies to the 2.2 million people on the government’s list.

Employers can decide to furlough shielding employees, but this is not a legal necessity.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) maintains that employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people if it is less safe for them to go to work than non-disabled staff.

The government has also told charities including Social Enterprise UK that it is planning to scale down furlough from August through to October, with no caveats for disabled people.

DR UK’s Policy Lead Fazilet Hadi said: “It is imperative that the government continues to provide both practical and financial support and protection for those whose lives would be endangered if they were forced to return to work before it was truly safe to do so. It is premature to be deciding what will happen in the autumn, especially amidst predictions of a second wave of Coronavirus. Disabled people and people with underlying health conditions whose health would be severely impaired or who face a real chance of dying if they catch Coronavirus must be able to determine what is right for us, for as long as necessary.”

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