Only a third of disabled employees feel their employer is genuine about inclusivity and removing all disability-related barriers at work, according to research that finds many are still struggling to get the adjustments they need.
The Great British Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, conducted by the Business Disability Forum, revealed that disabled employees are waiting far too long for reasonable adjustments, with some having to push for adjustments or even fund them themselves.
Since 2019, the last time the survey was run, the speed of getting adjustments has improved by just 4%, but one in eight disabled employees are waiting over a year for an adjustment to be made.
The Business Disability Forum has recommended that employers identify any simple adjustments that can be signed off without the need for a formal procedure or occupational health assessment.
It also recommended having a single entry-point to health and wellbeing support and to the adjustments process, to help managers get support for their employees sooner.
They should also develop a wider workplace approach to understanding the experiences of disabled employees, it said.
Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum CEO, said: “Workplace adjustments play a vital role in enabling disabled people to thrive at work. Access to adjustments needs to be simplified and improved but adjustments only remove some of the workplace barriers that disabled people experience.
“To be fully inclusive, employers need to have a greater understanding of how disability affects a person’s life as a whole. Accessibility and inclusion need to be embedded in all aspects of the organisation and its culture, with policies and premises designed with disabled people in mind. Senior leaders should start by challenging poor workplace culture and driving organisational-wide change which better supports disabled employees and managers.”
Almost 1,500 disabled employees and managers responded to the 2023 workplace adjustments survey. It found that:
- Only 37% felt their employer genuinely wanted to remove all barriers for disabled workers
- 56% still encountered disability-related challenges even after adjustments have been made
- Just 10% felt it was easy to get the reasonable adjustments they needed
- Only 18% felt their adjustments have removed all workplace barriers
- 78% had to initiate the process of getting adjustments.
- One employee said: “I did all the organisation myself as I waited two years for my manager to do something. In the end, I paid for it myself.”
The survey also asked about others’ attitudes to their disability or condition. Four in 10 said they had been patronised or put down by other people at work, while a similar proportion had been bullied or harassed.
Asked about their experiences of engaging with disabled employees, 64% of managers said they felt very confident to have conversations with an employee who tells them they have a disability or condition.
To be fully inclusive, employers need to have a greater understanding of how disability affects a person’s life as a whole. Accessibility and inclusion need to be embedded in all aspects of the organisation and its culture, with policies and premises designed with disabled people in mind.” – Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum
Only 25% of managers agreed a lot that occupational health helped them understand how to manage and support their employees with disabilities.
One manager said: “There are many factors which dictate how easy it is to make adjustments. Often organisational pressure, finance and efficiency seem to be prioritised over good support mechanisms.”
The recommendations for employers included:
- Ensuring conversations and adjustments reviews happen every time something changes, not just annually
- Giving disabled employees more recognition, as the survey found they want to feel like they belong and are contributing to the organisation
- Considering the use of ‘passports’, including whether they should be provided for everyone, not just disabled employees; keeping them in a safe and secure way; and ensuring they are not only implemented to avoid difficult conversations
- Trusting managers to implement flexibility in their teams
- Considering the terminology used around disability and workplace adjustments, ensuring it is inclusive as possible
- Ensuring managers know how to make an effective occupational health referral and what they should do when they receive a report from OH.
Further information can be found with the Business Disability Forum