Securing inclusive workplaces for disabled people

Today marks the International Day Of People With Disabilities. Over the past year, people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic through discrimination, exploitation and marginalisation.

At Community, we’ve been campaigning for disabled people for over a century. The National League of the Blind, in 1899 was the first trade union for disabled people in the U.K. and achieved huge amounts for British disabled people.

The League organised its first strike in 1912. In 1920, under the banner of “Justice not Charity”, they organised marches to Trafalgar Square from Leeds, Manchester and Newport in support of what became the Blind Persons Act 1920. They joined the Community family in 2000.

The theme for International Day Of People With Disabilities in 2021 is “Fighting for rights in the post-COVID era”. All workplaces should be inclusive and accepting of disabled people. Read our guide for inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities below ⬇️

How many disabled people are there in the U.K.?

There are 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, including 19% of all working age adults. It is vital for all disabled workers to know their rights at work, and to know what to do if they are mistreated or discriminated against.

What legal protections do disabled people have at work?

The Equality Act 2010 outlaws discrimination because you have a disability, because someone thinks you have a disability or because you are connected to someone with a disability.

It also states that your employer is legally required to provide reasonable adjustments to disabled workers to ensure that they are still able to do their jobs. Examples of this are a raised desk, accessible entrances or flexible hours to attend medical appointments.

It is important to note that not all illegal workplace behaviour against disabled people will fall neatly into these categories, and they may overlap. It is also important to remember that you may be discriminated against for being member of more than one protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, such as being disabled and pregnant.

What constitutes discrimination against disabled people?

The four main types of illegal discrimination against disabled workers are direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and failure to provide reasonable adjustments.

Direct discrimination is when you are treated less favourably due to disability, such as being passed over for promotions or opportunities, or not hired for a certain position.

Indirect discrimination is when your employer has rules or arrangements in place that put you at a disadvantage as a disabled person, whether intentional or otherwise. An example is requiring employees have a driving license, which may exclude people with epilepsy. Policies such as this are unlawful, unless there is an objective justification for them existing.

Failure to provide reasonable adjustments is when, as the name suggests, your employer makes no effort to provide reasonable adjustments to disabled workers.

Harassment is when you are bullied or mistreated for being disabled, such as name-calling or social exclusion.

What recourse do I have if I am discriminated against?

If you have experienced (or witnessed) discrimination or harassment based on disability at work you can make a complaint to your employer. Your employer should take your complaint very seriously and handle it correctly. It is good practice to make a note of what has happened, including dates, times and names of those involved or any witnesses.

Contact your union rep or the Service Centre who will be able to assist you further. They will support you to talk with your employer to try and resolve what has happened. Should this not resolve the issue, or if this would not be possible, they may support you to raise a formal grievance.

How does Community support disabled people?

Today we represent thousands of disabled workers across the U.K. in all industries and sectors and we are committed to driving positive change, rights, recognition and support for our members.

It is speaking to our disabled members that informs the work and campaigning we do.

More disabled people than ever before are choosing self-employment, but they are being let down by poor support from the government. Read the full research from Community and IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed).

At Community, we believe it’s essential that everyone is given the support they need to do their job to the best of their ability. Although this exists as a legal right, many disabled people struggle to get the support they need. Read our guide on how to access reasonable adjustments.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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