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An overwhelming 69 percent of disabled workers in Wales say they have stopped working due to a disability or health condition, according to new research from disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

The findings revealed an “unacceptably harsh” landscape for disabled workers across the UK, with:

  • 66 percent of managers saying the cost of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing a disabled person — up from 60 percent in 2017
  • Almost one quarter of UK employers saying they would be less likely to hire someone with a disability
  • 17 percent of those that had applied for a job in the past five years saying the employer withdrew the job offer as a result of their disability

Yvonne, who is taking part in Leonard Cheshire’s ACE (Able, Capable, Employable) programme, had previously been forced to give up work after not receiving any support for her disability.

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She said: “My line manager didn’t help me at all and I became isolated due to my disability. I felt frozen out and took early retirement because I was so low. On my last day nobody said goodbye or sent me a card. I was made to feel worthless.”

Attitudinal barriers continually featured in the charity’s latest research. Of the employers across the UK that said they were less likely to employ someone because they were disabled, 60 percent were concerned that a disabled person wouldn’t be able to do the job.

Of the disabled people in the UK who applied for a job in the last five years, 30 percent said they felt like the employer had not taken them seriously as a candidate.

Similarly, during the recruitment process, just one in five of these disabled applicants were made aware of workplace adjustments that could be made to support their disability, such as assistive technology or flexible working.

Neil Heslop, Chief Executive Officer at Leonard Cheshire, commented: “Our research reveals a tough and unwelcoming employment landscape for disabled people despite overall employment levels climbing to record highs.

“Most disabled people in 2019 remain frozen out of the world of work. More employers need to seize the opportunity of the untapped talent of disabled people.

“Straightforward measures exist to support individuals to get jobs or prevent those in work from falling out of employment due to a disability or health condition.

“All of us must redouble our efforts to challenge outdated attitudes to disability and accelerate the positive change that enables talented individuals to gain and keep jobs.”

In contrast, promisingly, Leonard Cheshire’s research found the proportion of employers in the UK who say they would be more likely to employ someone with a disability has almost doubled, from 11 percent in 2017 to 20 percent in 2018.

Greater numbers of employers in the UK are also reporting that in the last 18 months they have hired a disabled person, with a rise from 69 percent in 2017 to 79 percent in 2018.

In Wales, PC Jo Rhydderch suffered a brain haemorrhage three years ago aged 34 and returned to work with Gwent Police in 2016. She’s found the “reasonable adjustments” made by her employers to be a positive development for both her and her employers.

She said: “My employers have been understanding about my return to work and have made reasonable adjustments. This ranges from frequent breaks to minimising screen time.

“I’ve developed a different relationship with my bosses that involves consideration and managing my levels of concentration. It’s a positive learning experience for everyone.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, added: “Even the smallest of changes can make a dramatic difference in helping a disabled person achieve their full potential at work.

“Reasonable adjustments in the workplace aren’t just the right thing to do, they are a legal requirement, and it is shocking that so many are overlooking the positive contribution disabled people can make to their organisation.

“Employers need to make a change now and we need them to monitor recruitment, retention and progression of disabled staff. Once they understand the full picture, they will be able to take action to remove the barriers faced by disabled people.”

Leonard Cheshire’s latest research also revealed increased awareness amongst UK employers of the Government’s Access to Work scheme, up to 59 percent from 41 percent.

However, of the disabled people who say they currently received or have previously received Access to Work’s support, 69 percent in the UK reported waiting more than three months for their application to be approved.

Overall, just 14 percent percent of disabled people in Wales have currently or previously received Access to Work support through Access to Work, compared to 23 percent in the UK as a whole.

The charity is now calling on the government to strengthen and promote the scheme.

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