With just months to go until the Disability Discrimination Act becomes law in Britain, BBC WRAL looks at whether the new legislation will improve conditions for disabled people in the workplace.
The present exemption from discrimination law does not go far enough
This legislation will come into force in April 2019, but a law to protect people with special needs from exclusion from the workplace has already been established by Act No 491 in 2002. The Disability Discrimination Act has had little impact on the way the workplace treats disabled people, because, apart from the equalities commissioner, the Department for Work and Pensions and employers are largely ineffective in communicating the importance of equality to the wider workforce.
But the current exemption from discrimination law does not go far enough because private individuals, not employers, must take on the responsibility for avoiding discrimination. The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, has said it is “too late” to “heal the psychological wounds” suffered by disabled people in their workplaces.
Employers must make employment conditions for those with disabilities more accessible
The DWP will give an employer up to £300 per worker in compensation for each year that the disabled person is not able to work due to an exclusion caused by their disability. The jobs allowances, some as low as £25 per week, will allow disabled workers to supplement their income in times of severe disability.
Employers need to build in measures so everyone can experience their full capabilities at work
Part of the package includes a minimum in-person physical and emotional help for workers, including provision for guidance for career guidance and access to full-time personal assistants. People with a full or part-time disability are entitled to 6.15 hours of daily support for household tasks that reduce the ability to perform at work; this applies to both residential and non-residential jobs.
Employers should set examples of innovation by making their work facilities accessible to disabled people
The option to request access will be available to everyone, including those who are working in physical environments that may make it challenging to get in or out of or to get from a disabled toilets or shower cubicle. Those who wish to take advantage of these extra help will need to specify in writing how they would use it.
Employers should also consider the provision of accessible transport or facilities for workers’ relatives or friends
Companies are not legally bound to provide transport but may feel a duty to help their employees’ families or friends to attend work to support them.
The legislation will not make companies better at accommodating disabled people
The legislation doesn’t have teeth to force employers to meet their obligations, but there will also be fines of up to £100,000.
The government’s original legislation was tabled as an amendment to the Equality Bill in December 2016 and the new legislation will increase accessibility and support people with a range of disabilities, including mental health problems, including autism.
The Daily Telegraph has said while the new legislation is “good news”, it will “curry no favour with the Conservatives’ right-wing members”, adding that “far more must be done to build a viable and thriving work environment for disabled people.”