Core 10: The Change Makers' Manual

Decision-Making & Analytics



widespread following the pandemic, this would not benefit disabled people to a greater extent than non-disabled people. Therefore, it would not reduce disability employment disadvantage. This in turn raises the question as to why working from home might not have the positive effects for disabled people that have been ascribed to it from some quarters. One argument is that the anonymity working from home provides might not be to disabled employees’ advantage. It is possible it will reduce the likelihood of barriers being addressed, as well as reducing opportunities for employees to challenge managers’ unfounded stereotypes concerning disabled people’s productivity. In addition, where working from home is on a hybrid basis (as has happened increasingly since lockdown ended), disabled people will continue to face barriers regarding inaccessible transport systems on the days they are expected to be in work. Hybrid working also requires employers to provide adjustments in both the home and the work environment. Should they be reluctant to do this, disabled people may face even more inaccessible workplaces than would otherwise have been the case. Beyond this, working from home can present technological barriers for disabled employees. This might happen, for example, if the employer’s information and communication technologies are incompatible with the assistive technologies disabled employees use at home, or are otherwise inaccessible (eg, virtual meeting technology without live captioning and non-screen-reader-friendly video conferencing software). Finally, disabled people often experience greater social isolation than non-disabled people.


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Working from home has the potential to exacerbate this. As such, it remains imperative that the government does not assume that any increase in working from home post-pandemic will automatically help solve ongoing disability employment disadvantage. It needs to focus on comprehensive policy reform. This has been something for which my Disability@Work academic colleagues and I have been striving for some time. Back in 2016, we published a report on how to address the disability employment gap. It resulted in the introduction of apprenticeship targets for disabled people, revisions to government employment targets, and policy reform to leverage public-sector procurement to improve disabled people’s employment outcomes. Not content with these efforts, last year I teamed up with leading disability charities and unions to create the Disability Employment Charter. This outlines proposals to address disability employment disadvantage, including mandatory disability employment and pay gap reporting, reform of the government’s Access to Work and

Disability Confident schemes, and leveraging government procurement to increase employment opportunities for disabled people. More than 100 organisations have now signed the Charter, including all of the country’s main disability charities and the British Paralympic Association; large corporates such as McDonald’s, Schroders, and the Post Office; and, of course, the University of Warwick. This sends a powerful message to government about the appetite for substantive change and, crucially, provides consensus on what this should be. Disabled people have been denied the same employment opportunities as the wider population for far too long. Working from home will not present a quick fix to this. The time has come for substantive new government measures, as outlined in the Disability Employment Charter, to address the disadvantage disabled people continue to face in the workplace.

by Nick Chater

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