Confident with disability

Posted by Amanda Okill

Senior Associate

As an employment lawyer I have been advising individuals and employers on disability rights throughout my career. Despite strident press campaigns aimed at raising awareness of disability in society and at work, misleading assumptions, which risk holding back both employers and their staff remain.

The assumptions

I hear what some employers occasionally say. They worry that if they hire a disabled person, they risk running an unprofitable business with high absence levels, of making time consuming and costly adjustments, and of course of tribunal litigation.

The reality is they already have hired disabled people.  86% of disabled people develop their disability when at work, and some never feel able to speak about it. Cancer,  long term mental health conditions, multiple sclerosis, for example, are protected under the Equality Act 2010. These conditions may not be visible. Another assumption is that disability is visible. Often it is not.

The business case

Organisations failing to engage positively with as diverse a talent pool as possible, including people with disabilities, risk losing opportunities.  As pointed out in a report published by the CIPD in February 2018 in partnership with the training platform Uptimize, ‘Neurodiversity at Work,’ there is a compelling business case for diversity.

Neurodiversity refers to a natural range of differences in the human brain covering the thinking styles associated with dyslexia, Asperger’s, ADHD and dyspraxia. The CIPD report points to the many benefits of getting people of different perspectives and backgrounds in a room, and of how recruitment programmes aimed at the neurodiverse are benefitting organisations such as JPMorgan, Microsoft and Google, giving them a competitive edge.

Tribunal statistics show the number of disability discrimination claims brought against employers in the UK are negligible. In the period March 2017 to April 2018, of the 109,706 claims issued in total, only 5354 (less than 5%) of these were claims of disability discrimination.

Of course there is the occasional vexatious claim but in reality a disabled person is more likely to suffer from prejudicial assumptions and treatment than they are likely to bring tribunal proceedings.

Training Workshop with Yasmin Sheikh of Diverse Matters

One of my good friends Yasmin Sheikh, founder of Diverse Matters knows all too well the damage that negative assumptions can bring to both business and individuals with disabilities. At 29, a solicitor in a city law firm, she sustained a spinal stroke.

Today Yasmin is a chair user and successful business woman training and coaching businesses on diversity and inclusivity. Before starting her business one of her line managers told her that if he employed everyone with her disability, the business would fail.

To do something about this we’ve decided to team up and run a workshop aimed at  building confidence around  disability at work.

For employers, we want to highlight some of the many benefits in recruiting and retaining from the widest talent pool, and this includes people with disabilities.

We will be focussing on visible and hidden disabilities including neurodiversity.

We’ll be looking at recruitment and reasonable adjustments and provide practical examples from our own experience and case law. We’ll be around to answer questions and chat afterwards.

Who’s it for?

The workshop is aimed at employers, diversity and inclusion professionals, managers, people with disabilities and anyone interested in creating an inclusive culture at work. If you are reading this, we look forward to seeing you there.

How to book

The event starts at 18:30 on Wednesday, 3rd October 2018 at Hardwick Building, New Square, London and can be booked for free via Eventbrite.


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