Supporting disability in the workplace

3 Dec 2023
As Ingeus celebrates International Day of People with Disabilities on 3rd December, Julie Graham, CEO of Ingeus’s Employment Services, explores how UK employers can support people with a disability in the workplace, making employment more accessible and inclusive for all.

Almost a quarter of the UK’s working-age population reported they were disabled in 2023. That’s 9.58 million people needing differing support at work. Disabled people have the same working desires and expectations as non-disabled people, yet they’re almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. Why? Put simply, it’s because life in the workplace is often too challenging and inflexible.

As a Disability Confident Leader, we’re working hard to combat the disability employment gap – the gap between employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people. We’ve recently published findings of the UK’s first Disability Diversity and Inclusivity Index, looking at the experiences of disabled workers and jobseekers and we’re keen to share our learnings.

A disability – defined in UK employment as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities – can be visible or invisible, and support should be assessed on an individual basis, rather than by condition.

No employee has to tell their employer about a disability but, if they do, the employer has a legal responsibility to support them. Employers must understand the personal barriers a disabled employee experiences at work and make reasonable adjustments to overcome them, identifying solutions that will work for the person and the business. 

Reasonable adjustments don’t always mean great expense or efforts – often much simpler and inexpensive adjustments can be just as meaningful.

Creating an inclusive and diverse culture is a key starting point to successful integration of disabled and non-disabled employees. Once that’s embedded, people will feel safe and comfortable to talk about disability, helping disabled people to get the support they need while ensuring they’re not treated less favourably.

Line managers should be trained beyond disability awareness training. They need to know how to navigate conversations about disability, and how to manage and develop people with a disability or health condition. Regularly checking in on an individual establishes trust and openness, and makes sure changing needs are met.

Small changes to someone’s working arrangements can make a huge difference to productivity. Consider flexible hours and hybrid working – independent transport may be an issue and they may rely on family or friends for lifts to and from work. Allowing time off for medical appointments or treatment makes for a more open relationship, and one where the employee will feel valued enough to go above and beyond for your business in return.

If physical adaptations are required, it could be something as simple as adapted equipment or lighting, with Access to Work funding available to support its purchase. 

As an employability support provider, Ingeus advises employers how to support people with a disability and identify reasonable adjustments, as well as how to access funding. Making reasonable adjustments can be crucial for an employer in reaping the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Click here to find out more about Ingeus as a Disability Confident Leader. 

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