A history of supporting disabled workers

Last week marked the beginning of the Paralympic Games.

Community has been supporting disabled people since 1899, with the formation of the National League of the Blind and Disabled as a trade union.

The League organised its first strike in 1912. In April 1920 it organised a march that converged in London in support of legal reform that became the Blind Persons Act 1920.

Decades of campaigning from the NLBD and other disabled rights activists led to the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, making it unlawful to discriminate against people based on their disability.

In 2000, the NLBD joined with the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation the form the union that is now known as Community.

To this day, we’re still campaigning.

Despite immense progress made, it is important to note that discrimination against disabled people is still too commonplace. In 2017, 32% of disabled people and 22% of non-disabled reported feeling that there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people.

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.

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.

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.

It’s 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.

As the country cheers on our disabled athletes at the Paralympics, it is important to be advocates all year round and not just for two weeks. Community is determined to continue to fight for a better working world where disabled people are able to live and work free from discrimination.

For more information, contact equalities@community-tu.org.


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



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