Added: 13th May 2020 by Atkins
In the latest release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Labour Force Survey (LFS) data revealed that disabled people were over a third less likely to be employed than non-disabled people, with an employment rate for disabled people (aged 16 to 64 years) of 53.2% in 2019, compared with 81.8% for non-disabled people.
Adam Lawrence is Associate Acoustician at Atkins and Chair of the Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia* Support Group. Here he shares his thoughts on how the adoption of flexible working practices - brought into widespread use by the Coronavirus pandemic – may actually help those with disabilities back into the workplace.
I have observed in recent weeks the rapid increase in the proportion of people continuing to work in their usual jobs, but at home. There are many types of people who, during the Coronavirus pandemic, are being obliged by the Government to work at home and avoid unnecessary travel, and employers are doing all they can to make this happen. Many of these people are in roles that would not normally have been considered for home working. Boundaries are being pushed, employees are being trusted to work in new ways and new locations. Technology is being exploited in innovative ways to enable this impressive change.
Look at the perspective a few months before this crisis. There are a fair number of people with both disabilities and important skills that are in demand in the workplace. They have been unable to get work because there were perceptions and attitudes that the role could not successfully be fulfilled in a different way or in a different location.
I think attitudes around working at home are changing. Once the COVID-19 crisis has passed and people head back towards a more normal society, will employers remember this perspective change? There are many roles which can be successfully filled by people who do not come into the workplace, who use technology, and who manage their own time in their own places to effectively deliver work.
Having a disability can be an isolating experience. When people are unable to find purpose in their lives or contribute to society, this can negatively impact their wellbeing and quality of life. Employment is one way of getting a purpose and making contributions to society.
I hope that people with useful skills, currently unable to work because of their disability or situation, embrace the perspective change and have the confidence to seek reemployment. Such candidates could ask potential employers: “was this role successfully undertaken by a home-worker during the COVID-19 crisis?” More things are possible. More can be achieved. There will be many opportunities as society fully engages with this new more inclusive, more effective world.