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Disabled employees waiting ‘too long’ for workplace adjustments

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1 in 3  disabled employees feel employer is committed to building a more inclusive workplace

A report on the challenges UK disabled people and those with chronic health conditions face in the workplace –  highlights the barriers needed to be removed to make the workforce more accessible.

The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, conducted by the Business Disability Forum (BDF), analysed the experiences of nearly 1,500 disabled employees and 400 managers around workplace adjustments and inclusion, building on an initial survey into adjustments conducted by the BDF in 2019.

Key findings shine a light on the work needed to be done to make workplaces more accessible; only 1 in 10 disabled employees said it was easy to get vital adjustments and for 1 in 8, the adjustment process is taking over a year. Half of disabled employees said there are still disability-related barriers in the workplace after adjustments were made – these include harassment and bullying, inaccessible spaces and promotion opportunities. Only 1 in 3  disabled employees feel their employer is genuine about removing barriers and making the workplace inclusive.

Employees are also having to push for adjustments or even fund them themselves. Common adjustments include; flexibility over hours and location, time off for medical appointments, as well as ergonomic equipment and assistive technology.

Disabled people are also facing a number of other disability-related barriers at work, which go beyond changes to their individual roles. These include bullying and harassment, limited promotion and development opportunities, inaccessibility of programs and initiatives intended to support wellbeing, and wider inaccessibility of buildings and systems.

The 2023 survey shows that managers feel more confident talking about disability than they did previously and play a key role in the adjustment process. However, multiple internal processes and limited powers to make changes, in the wider organisation. create additional barriers and leave managers feeling frustrated. The research also reveals that the legacy of the  COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on workplace experiences.

In response to the research, the BDF is calling for employers to; simplify their workplace adjustment process, support managers and the role they play in workplace inclusion and develop a wider workplace approach to understanding disability and removing any disability-related barriers.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, said: “Workplace adjustments play a vital role in enabling disabled people to thrive at work. 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.”

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