Opening doors for disabled workers
So many people with a physical disability have problems when it comes to employment. Having a physical disability is a big enough problem but facing life as one of the unemployed is a blow that makes everything seem even harder. The scars and trauma of being out of work can lead to the break down of families. The cost to this country of people not working is growing all the time. Only too often the problem is seen as stubbornness or inflexibility by the employer or recruitment agents. Sometimes you just have to ‘go-it’ alone.
What needs changing
Working as a disabled person is often made more difficult by the attitude of the employer. A physically disabled person is capable of doing the work but is unable to work the full week because of problems that are not seen by the employer. Here are some examples
- A job is defined as being for a full working week. In many cases jobs can easily be broken down into fewer hours per week thereby creating further positions. This makes it much more feasible for the physically disabled.
- There could be a problem associated with the commute such as steps or several separate journeys using public transport.
- The disabled person might not be able to drive and the office is in an area where there is little or no public transport
- Many employers are too inflexible. Illnesses such as multiple sclerosis do vary from day to day and the possibility to work at home should be available to all.
- Only too often employers subconsciously discriminate
Things are changing for example railway stations are now installing lifts, flexitime is becoming more common as is working from home. None the less there is still a long way to go.
Work flexibility tends to come from the top of an organisation. You could make a suggestion to your boss for flexible working schemes. The management would implement the changes into the working methods of the company.
- People need to be more flexible in little matters. Does everyone need to be at their desks by 9.00? By using flexible start times people can use public transport to travel to and from work at quieter times. This flexibility helps everyone.
- Travel at off peak times, this can represent a significant financial saving From where I live travelling into London, at ‘off peak’ times is 30% less expensive than to travel at peak times
This sort of flexibility and forward thinking will help single parent families as well as the physically disabled It does not happen overnight, it takes a generation to see these ideas being adopted by the majority of employers.
Disabled people will, as a rule, try to avoid recruitment agencies. A proportion of the salary paid to staff who work at recruitment agencies is performance related. Why should an agent put a disabled person forward for a job when the employer is more than likely to ignore CV’s from disabled people?
I used to work as a contract computer consultant and the bulk of the work came through agencies. As my disability became more obvious so my contracts became shorter and times between contracts grew longer. In other words my earning power dropped
Pros and cons of bring a disabled employee
Use My Ability, a project funded by the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme states that research shows disabled employees have “a greater tendency to stay with an organisation longer”. In other words disabled people stay in their jobs longer. This will save money on recruitment costs and all the other costs associated with a high turnover of staff. It will also help to keep the organisation more stable The flip side of the coin is expressed by Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope “Disabled people earn less and are less likely to be in a professional or senior management roles”
I enjoyed working as an independent computer consultant, I saw the world but I had no job security. I retired, for medical reasons, nearly two years ago. I enjoy trying to get my little business up and running but sometimes the idea of a regular job does have its attractions. Many disabled people see the attractions of being self employed and it is a popular option.
Of those in paid work, 18 per cent of disabled men and 8 per cent of disabled women are self-employed as their main job. Compare this to only 14 per cent and 6 per cent of non-disabled men and women respectively Boylan, A. and Burchardt, T. (2002) Barriers to self-employment for disabled people. This article was written in 2002