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Disabled employees and working from home

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For many people, working from home has become the “new normal” whilst for some disabled employees the ability to work from home during the pandemic has proved to be an invaluable adjustment giving them greater flexibility and independence.

During 2020, 19% of the UK’s working age population reported that they were disabled, with 53.6% of those people in employment. UNISON also reports that during the pandemic disabled employees felt they were more productive working from home and needed to take less time off than if they were working in the office.

Due to the changes for much of the population in the way we now work, there are calls for disabled workers to be given the right to work from home if they wish to. Equally more inclusive policies allowing employees to work remotely and more flexibly could further assist more disabled people into employment who may currently feel they are denied the opportunity.

Before COVID-19 remote working was the most requested but most frequently refused reasonable adjustment requested by disabled employees. Even though employers have a duty under Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace, and a failure to do so without good reasons would be classed as discrimination, two in five workers* with a disability still believe that their employer would not agree to allow them to work from home.

The benefits to a disabled employee who is able to work from home can be invaluable, but equally the employer benefits from a happier, more productive and more diverse workforce. Employers have been required to embrace change as flexible home working has been forced upon the nation. There are calls for these changes to be embraced even further once the pandemic is over to allow inclusive opportunities in the workplace for all.

*source UNISON.

By Joanne Ribchester, employment law and discrimination team