Incapacity benefit challenge: Disability & the workplace

Politicians are keen to get as many people as possible on incapacity benefit/employment and support allowance back to work, which is no mean feat in a recession. But just how easy is it for disabled individuals who are well enough to work to find employment? There are more than two million disabled workers currently employed in the UK, but many more are unable to find jobs.

“One in five disabled people in the UK are unemployed but want to work; this compares to one in 15 of non-disabled people,” a spokesperson for the Employers’ Forum on Disability tells me. “Disabled jobseekers often face physical and attitudinal barriers, such as the accessibility of buildings and the misplaced attitudes of some employers.”

But according to the organisation, which helps members recruit and retain disabled employees, companies doing so save money and are more productive. “We know from the experience of our members, who employ around 20 per cent of the UK’s workforce, that it makes commercial and strategic sense for employers to get it right on disability,” EFD’s spokesperson says. “Those that do are better employers for everyone, and make significant cost savings and productivity gains through developing more efficient recruitment, employment and customer service processes. For example, employers expert in making reasonable adjustments can typically save £2,000 per person through return to work and increased productivity.”

According to research by the charity Scope, many disabled employees are just as skilled as other workers, stay in their jobs for longer and have a strong work commitment. They are no more likely to take time off work sick than their colleagues. And while disability is often associated with wheelchairs, only five percent of disabled people use them.

Yet there are other barriers besides the lack of jobs available in the recession. Building accessibility is one. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for customers and staff with disabilities. Many of these are free and can be funded by the government’s Access to Work Scheme. But there are other problems too. “Accessibility is not just about wheelchair ramps: only 5-8 percent of the UK’s population are wheelchair users,” says EFD’s spokesperson. “It’s also important to make websites accessible: 1.3 million disabled people in the UK are excluded by inaccessible and badly designed e-recruitment websites.”

What’s more, many people still face workplace discrimination. “People with disabilities may face negative attitudes at work based on outdated notions of what they are capable of achieving. For attitudes to change, any solutions need to have the support of both employers and disabled people. The stigma of mental health is particularly strong in workplaces, with many managers unsure how best to support colleagues who may be mentally unwell. That’s why EFD has publications that provide line managers with practical advice on a range of issues, including mental health.”

For the Conservatives’ policy to return more IB claimants to the workplace to be successful, EFD believes it must have the support of both disabled people and employers. What’s more, there must be plenty of training opportunities available because individuals with disabilities are twice as likely as other workers to lack qualifications.

Are you a disabled worker or jobseeker? Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace or struggled to find work? Are you an employer with experience of working with disabled employees? What are you experiences? Leave a message and let me know. Thanks, Piper.

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5 Responses to Incapacity benefit challenge: Disability & the workplace

  1. Bill says:

    Had an email from my Business Consultant late yesterday. He doubts the viability of the new county council lease, due to my illness, despite believing that I will receive £700/mth Incapacity Benefit continuatiion, if I go ahead. Not only would this be twice my current Benefit of £93/wk, he also believes that I am on full DLA.The illness is an absolute fiction, used by the state to fudge the unemploment figures, when they maliciously move us fom JSA/Income Support to Incap + Income Support. This 50% improvement in Benefit definitely means that we are a complete "write-off", & will never obtain work, or be allowed to work again. There are currently only 11,000 vacancies nationwide, in the deputy PM office, for Transport Techies, for which I am more than qualified, by secretary of state, since 1968.This Consultant, is the same man I shook hands with a week last Tuesday, having driven almost 200 miles to meet him. He is the first suitable consultant, conversant in agriculture, that I have been able to find in the past 3 years. He also, "accidentaly", scaled my pig enterprise down, from 400 head/year, on a weekly basis, to 40 head/year, saleable monthly, only 5mths/year. He is a county council tenant farmer himself, & has assisted the current tenant of the vacant property for at least 10 years.This Plan left me £20,000 in the red, at the end of the 2nd year. Since I put him straight, this morning, the revised edition puts me £3,000 in the black to commence the 3rd year, & a further £3,000 in credit to end the 5th year, despite the loss of my complete Benefit. I do not wish to produce beef, the most inefficient agricultural enterprise in the world today, but it is compulsory on a county council tenancy. I would prefer sheep, or even ostrich, as the most efficient meat production in the world. I have all the necessary skills, tried & tested.It is my investment, my only pension at stake, who is he working for, them or me.Is this an attitude problem, or just another case of "repel all borders"?His email did not work earlier in the week, his card gives both \’phone & fax, but he prefers mobi. A mobile laptop bounced my first email @ 08:00 this morning, & his website is completely empty, despite being registered as a co. since \’04. I have just tried his laptop email again, succesfully. Does he have "Cash-Flow" probs of his own?My m/c (laptop) receives emails in the dead of night, even when not switched on, or plugged in, despite a flat battery. My Mobi also takes messages, & text, even with a flat battery, while I sleep. Yes, I also suffer power probs, that is the nature of any mobile kit. But I have never yet been "cut off". My Mobi is PaYG, & receives all calls, text & messages, even when out of credit.Maybe it is a case of attitude. I know from extreme bitter experience, that I have no chance of employment with any employer, other than a stinking rip-off agency. I spent 5 years on that in the late 90\’s. Never again.I would turn to a life of crime first.I am already aware that opening a Business is no easier than successfully finding employment, if we are not currently employed, we have no chance. Very few answer the \’phone, if they do, then only to abuse us on a wild goose chase. Very few answer an email, many do not even answer Recorded Delivery. It is not good, when we have to threaten a prospective future employer with court action, should they fail to answer our application.What way is that to secure employment?Do I really wish to work with, or for, such arrogant, ignorant, insolent imbeciles?They are just as bad as the civil service who run the job centre & Benefit office.Is such employment any better than attempting to live on any form of Benefit?But it is apparently our duty, dead or alive, to apply. Our only proof that we have done so, is the Recorded Delivery reciept, or the Email copy. We always need to take a copy of any application sent Recorded Delivery. A fax is also good evidence, witnessed by the post office "post-mark".They do not need any proof, it is not them on trial.I have no useless sympathy, but genuine empathy for those genuine ill or dissabled, oft far worse off than myself. Sadly, as can be seen, I am currently in no position to provide practical help, but will stand for election, as an Indepent, as soon as I find an independent means of living. My salary from the House of commons, as all possible expenses, will all be spent on those in genuine need. I would not consume a single groat in person.I only cash my giro, in the hope that it will assist me in a route back to financially Independent living. I am taking no one else\’s bread, they would not receive it anyway. At end of day, they can always print more of this Toy Town currency, thereby causing more inflation, & bringing us all closer to the brink.That is exactly how they "finance " their own extortionate, self-signed pay rises, & expenses, just print some more. I pity the rain-forest!

  2. Lesley says:

    Iwould like to raise an issue that I have had to contend with – ageism at work. Being obviously passed over for promotion even though experience and knowledge far outweighs colleagues. Being made to feel you are on the scrap heap and should not be working. I wonder how many older workers have experienced similar. I personally know of several. It is hard enough trying to manage on a pension and working I cannot imagine what it will be like once I am forced to leave the job when I reach 65. I will have no choices. The chances of finding another job paying similar money are nil (I don\’t earn a fortune by the way). I will have to sell my house as I will not be able to afford the mortgage. I am divorced so hence the reason I still have a mortgage at my age. The prospects for the future fill me with horror and I can fully sympathise on how people young or old feel when struck with a debilitating illness that forces them to rely on the state.

  3. john says:

    Dear PiperThis is going to be the last comment I will be making on this subject and its food for thought for everyone.Like most disabled people if I manage to get to sleep and dream, I dream that I am healthy and that I can run and do all the things I could do before I became disabled, but five minuets after I wake up and I am taking my medication to try and help me get through another day, the nightmare begins again. The differents with us disabled people is we dont have the occasional nightmare at night we live one every day. So think on that and not on the benifits we might be getting. I am sure every disabled person would gladly swop places with an ableboby person any day, I am not sure the ablebody people would be just as keen.

  4. Unknown says:

    Any attempt by politicians to get anyone, disabled or otherwise, off benefits and back into work, is always going to hit one major stumbling block. Employers! Except in times of full employment, and the last time I remember that was in the 1960s, employers have a choice of who they employ. They will decide who they want, and who they don\’t want, and rightly so. It is therefore almost impossible to prove discrimination on any grounds, as the employer always has an easy get-out by saying that they had a huge number of applicants for the post, they couldn\’t possibly have interviewed everyone, and they have given the job to the person they thought best suited. How can you argue? It may be that they had already decided before interviewing anyone, that they would only employ someone who fitted within certain criteria, such as age, race, gender, or level of fitness. They may have decided only to employ someone who is changing jobs, and not someone who has been long-term unemployed (I know some employers do this), but how do you prove it unless they will admit to it or it is mentioned in the job description, which is extremely unlikely these days?We currently have massive unemployment in this country, and I belive it is much higher than the government figures suggest, so how can politicians get anyone back into work, when they can\’t force employers to take on people they don\’t want, and the jobs simply aren\’t there, anyway?

  5. Sue says:

    I have been told by an occupational work doctor I am fit enough to be able to return to work, yet my line manager has told me she is unable to restrict my workload so I can work with a less demanding service user group, and if I cannot work with all clients, I cannot return to my post. This is not a small company but a major employer in the UK. So much for reasonable adjustments within the workplace.

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