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Disabilities and the UK’s Ageing Population – The Case for In-Work Support

Today’s guest blog is has been provided by IntoWork; a Supported Employment charity based in Edinburgh with over 20 years’ experience helping disabled people to access and retain fair employment. IntoWork have an excellent track-record providing tailored advice to employers on disability related issues such as reasonable adjustments to help them maintain diverse workforces, and recruit from a pool of untapped talent that they may not have previously considered.  We hope you enjoy this blog, and please feel free to contact IntoWork at enquiries@intowork.org.uk if you have any questions.

The nature of the UK’s ageing population has been well-publicised. In 2007, the number of people in Britain aged over 65 outnumbered the number of people under 16 for the first time and by 2032 there will be a 61% increase in the number of over 65s in the UK. We know this will place a huge strain on the welfare system and care sector but what has perhaps been less considered is that people will be working longer into an older age and the implications of this. 

As older people are more likely to be ill or disabled, the prevalence of illness and disability in the working-age people will increase. This, combined with the fact that 83% of people who have a disability acquire it while they are in work suggests the need for in-work support for disabled people is going to increase.

In December 2016, the Scottish Government published their delivery plan for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People sets out five long-term goals aimed at changing the lives of disabled people in Scotland in relation to their human rights.  Within this plan there are 93 actions for the Scottish Government, some of those which relate to employment include, reducing barriers to employment faced by disabled people, halving the employment gap for disabled people and improving support for people with disabilities and health conditions to help them stay in or return quickly to fair work.

Achieving these actions will need support both for and from employers to implement reasonable adjustments where required, proactively address the causes of ill-health in the workplace and effect cultural change on disabilities and employment. 

Examples of reasonable adjustments for an employee who has acquired a disability or long-term health condition:

  • A change to working hours – shorter working days, a compressed working week, a day off through the week for rest
  • Reassignment to a different working location or role
  • Allowing for absences during working hours for medical appointments and rehabilitation
  • Providing regular one to one support and supervision
  • Modifying performance related pay arrangements
  • Altering redundancy selection criteria
  • Adjusting disciplinary or grievance procedures

Source: Examples of Reasonable Adjustments in Practice, https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/examples-reasonable-adjustments-practice. April 2016.

The extent to which implementing such adjustments for disabled employees is case specific and so dependent on the individual circumstances of the employee and employer. What is reasonable in one case will not be in another, for example, it is more reasonable for a large employer to consider redeployment than for a small business. 

The Equality Act 2010 amalgamated previous discrimination legislation into a single Act providing legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and wider society. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled job applicants and employees.  This aims to ensure that both disabled and non-disabled workers have the same access to all aspects of carrying out and retaining a job, as far as is reasonable.  Once an employer is aware of an employee’s disability they have a duty to take a proactive approach to reasonable adjustments.  Failure to do this could result in a disabled employee being able to show there were identifiable barriers to their employment and reasonable adjustments which could have been made.  Under these circumstances the employee could bring about a claim against their employer to the Employment Tribunal.

Some recent examples of case law relating to disability discrimination illustrate the importance of employers proactively implementing reasonable adjustments for employees.

Griffiths v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2016)

The Court of Appeal held that dismissing an employee for disability-related absences which activate an attendance policy could constitute discrimination arising from disability. To avoid this the employer could make the reasonable adjustment of logging disability related absences separately to standard absences thus reducing the application of their attendance policy.

Horler v Chief Constable of South Wales Police (2012)

The Employment Tribunal found that the Police had not met its duty as an employer to make reasonable adjustments as it had not considered redeployment to an alternative post for a police officer no longer able to carry out frontline duties due to their disability.

Source: Discrimination Arising from Disability: five examples from case law,

http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/discrimination-arising-from-disability-case-law-five-examples/. April 2016.

 In mid-2016 in the UK, 49% of disabled people aged 16 to 64 were in work, compared with 81% of non-disabled people. Both the Scottish and UK governments are committed to reducing this disability employment gap.  To do so we still need greater understanding in society that disability also means ability, that the duty to make reasonable adjustments is not expensive or going to cause great inconvenience to employers and that we must have a more inclusive and flexible approach to employment to have as productive, diverse and inclusive a workforce as possible.

15% of people aged 16 to 24 have at least one health condition that limits their day-to-day activities in some way. This figure increases to 42% of people aged 45 to 64, and 57% of people aged 65 to 74.  As our population ages the prevalence of health conditions and disabilities increases, the need for adjustments and in-work support is only going to increase in line with this.  Employers must become more prepared for an ageing workforce and the need to adapt policies and procedures to retain their employees.

Thank you for reading this blog, and we hope you found it useful. If you have need any free, confidential advice on anything to do with employing people with disabilities please contact IntoWork on 0131 475 2600 or enquiries@intowork.org.uk.

If you have an HR or employment issue, or would like to find out more about our Holistic HR service, please contact Hannah and Katie on 0845 345 5004 or fill out our online contact form.

 

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