Press release: Business Disability Forum responds to General Election 2017 pledges

London, UK: In the run up to the 8 June General Election, Business Disability Forum welcomes announcements from both the Conservative and Labour parties that aim to improve conditions for disabled people in the workplace.

Last week, Jeremy Hunt made a statement that a new Conservative Government would remove the requirement for people with mental health conditions to show that they have had the condition for a period of 12 months or more in order to qualify for protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.  

At Business Disability Forum, we already advise employers not to waste time and resources on trying to work out if anyone, with a physical or mental condition, meets the legal definition of disability because only a court can ultimately make this decision. A better - and legally less risky - approach is to address the barriers the person faces at work as soon as they become apparent and to make reasonable adjustments to enable the person to be a productive employee. An employer who tries to work out if an employee has had their disability or health condition (or indeed any circumstance which means they may need adjustments at work) for more than 12 months before making adjustments that might help, sends employees the message that their employer will only treat them well if they are legally obliged to do so. This leads to poor morale and employee engagement and in some cases can lead to an employee developing a long-term disability because work issues were not addressed early enough.

This proposal by Jeremy Hunt would make it a legal requirement for employers to take the best practice approach that many good employers have already adopted and will cause little in the way of practical problems for employers with good HR and reasonable adjustment policies in place.

Rights, however, must be enforceable if there is to be meaningful change and real protection from discrimination at work. Business Disability Forum, therefore, welcomes Labour’s manifesto pledge to abolish employment tribunal fees to enable everyone to have access to justice if they do experience discrimination. Good employers recognise the benefits of employing a diverse workforce and the talents of disabled people but there needs to be meaningful recourse to justice if legislation designed to protect people from discrimination is to be effective in improving the working lives of disabled people.

We hope that, regardless of who forms the next government, that all parties will work together to close the disability employment gap and, in doing so, to transform the life chances of disabled people in the workplace. 

 

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Notes to Editors

  1. Business Disability Forum represents around 300 organisations that employ 15% of the UK workforce. We have more than twenty-five years’ experience of equipping people with the expertise to create confident organisations by improving the understanding of disability in business, removing barriers and making adjustments for individuals.

  2. For more information, contact Samuel Buckley, Press Officer, by phone on 020 7403 3020 or by emailing samuelb@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk.