Research reveals workplace failures in supporting disabled employees

Only 1 in 10 disabled employees said it was easy to get needed adjustments

Despite progress in advocating for inclusivity, workplaces in the UK are still falling short of providing adequate support for disabled employees.

A comprehensive study conducted by the Business Disability Forum (BDF) sheds light on the ongoing challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and long-term conditions in the workplace. The research exposes significant delays in acquiring necessary adjustments, the persistence of disability-related barriers, and the frustrations experienced by managers tasked with facilitating inclusivity.

Great Big Workplace Adjustments

The study, titled the Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, represents one of the most extensive investigations into the experiences of disabled individuals and those with long-term conditions, encompassing responses from nearly 1,500 disabled employees and 400 managers. This research builds upon the initial survey conducted by BDF in 2019, aiming to uncover the current state of workplace adjustments and inclusivity.

One of the key findings of the survey reveals that a mere 10% of disabled employees found it easy to obtain the necessary adjustments in their workplace, highlighting the prevailing difficulties faced by these individuals. Shockingly, the adjustments process extended beyond a year for one out of every eight respondents.

Despite adjustments being implemented, half of the disabled employees surveyed reported ongoing barriers such as bullying, harassment, inaccessible facilities, and limited career advancement opportunities. Furthermore, a mere one-third of respondents believed that their employers genuinely worked towards removing barriers and fostering inclusivity.

Removing barriers

Managers play a critical role in the adjustments process, but the research suggests that they feel unsupported and constrained by internal processes. They need more authority to implement broader organisational changes, adding further obstacles to inclusivity.

The research also examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workplace experiences. Disabled employees reported positive and negative aspects of remote work, finding it easier to manage their conditions from home. However, challenges persisted in securing necessary adjustments during this time. On the other hand, managers expressed increased stress and a lack of support from employers.

In response to the findings, the BDF calls upon employers to simplify the workplace adjustment process, offer more support to managers, and develop a comprehensive approach to address disability-related barriers.

Meeting the needs of disabled employees

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, stressed the importance of workplace adjustments in enabling disabled individuals to thrive at work. “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.”

The full research report, summary, and key recommendations can be accessed on the Business Disability Forum’s Great Big Workplace Adjustments 2023 Hub.

As workplaces continue to strive for inclusivity, it is crucial for employers to prioritise the needs and experiences of disabled individuals. By implementing practical adjustments, fostering a supportive environment, and removing barriers, businesses can create truly inclusive workplaces that empower all employees to succeed.

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