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Nearly one in three Disabled workers say they were treated unfairly at work during the pandemic

10 June 2021

Nearly one in three (30 per cent) Disabled workers say that they’ve been treated unfairly at work during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new poll published by the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The survey – carried out by YouGov for the TUC – reveals that many Disabled people report that they experienced significant barriers in the workplace before the pandemic, and that Covid-19 has made things worse for them.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, disabled workers were hugely underrepresented and underpaid in the labour market. The employment gap between disabled and non-disabled workers was 28 per cent.

Disabled workers are paid 20 per cent less than non-disabled peers.

Recent government figures show that redundancy rates are now 62 per cent higher for disabled workers

Disabled workers told the TUC that their disability or shielding status meant they were treated unfairly, and worse than other colleagues during the pandemic. For example:

One in 13 (eight per cent) said they were subjected to bullying and/or harassment, being ignored or excluded, singled out for criticism or being monitored excessively at work.

One in eight (twelve per cent) said they were concerned their disability had affected their chances of a promotion in the future.

One in eight (13 per cent) said they were concerned their disability had affected how their performance would be assessed by their manager.

The poll also uncovered:

Shielding workers put at risk: More than one in five (21 per cent) shielding workers worked outside of their home most of the time – even though employers could use furlough to protect shielding workers who could not do their jobs from home.

Hostile workplaces: One in eight (12 per cent) disabled workers told the TUC that they have not told their employer about their disability or health condition, with many of these workers fearing being treated unfairly (24%) or even losing their job (21%) if they were open about their disability or health condition.

Employers failing disabled workers: only just over half (55 per cent) of those who asked their employers for reasonable adjustments during the pandemic told the TUC that they had been made in full and one in six (16 per cent) said they had none implemented.

Unsafe workplaces: A quarter of disabled workers (25 per cent) said they felt unsafe at work during the pandemic due to the risk of catching/spreading the virus – and this rose to nearly one in three (30 per cent) among those who worked outside their homes throughout

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Employers are failing disabled workers.  Many disabled and shielding workers felt unsafe at work during the pandemic. And too many disabled workers told us their boss is breaking the law by not giving them the adjustments they need.

She added:

“Ministers must act. We need proper enforcement of disabled workers’ rights to reasonable adjustments and safety at work, and a duty on employers to report and close the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled workers.”

The TUC says that any proposed National Strategy for Disabled People. must include:

Mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. This should be accompanied by a duty on bosses to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified.

Enforcement of reasonable adjustments: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should get specific funding to enforce disabled workers’ rights to reasonable adjustments.

A stronger legal framework for adjustments: the EHRC must update their statutory code of practice to include more examples of reasonable adjustments, to help disabled workers get the adjustments they need quickly and effectively.

For more information see Nearly one in three disabled workers surveyed treated unfairly at work during the pandemic – new TUC polling available from tuc.org.uk.