This October, Martin Searle Solicitors' Employment Law team are launching 'Disability Matters', their annual campaign to stamp out disability discrimination at work. This campaign will concentrate on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other medical conditions such as Long Covid and Fibromyalgia, which can produce similar symptoms.
Despite disability discrimination in the workplace being outlawed we are dealing with increasing numbers of employees experiencing discrimination. A June 2023 study by the House of Commons library found that 53.7% of working-age disabled people are in employment, compared to 82.7% for people who are not disabled. For many with mental health conditions, including learning difficulties, the employment rate drops to just 28%.
A 2020 study carried out by Citizens Advice found that disabled people were twice as likely to face redundancy at work. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) also found that disabled people earn 13.8% less on average than non-disabled people - almost £2 less per hour. The disability employment gap, which shows the difference between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people, begun widening during the Coronavirus pandemic, and is how at 29.8% - the widest point since 2018. Although the measures introduced by the government at the height of the pandemic have now been dropped, in January 2023 the ONS estimated that two million people (3.1% of the population) were experiencing long COVID symptoms, with 19% of these reporting that their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been "limited a lot" since the onset of symptoms.
As with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, employers are often unaware of their responsibilities to employees who are experiencing long COVID, and may not realise that their employees are disabled under the Equality Act, and that they could be inadvertently discriminating against them at work.
Fiona Martin, Director and Head of Employment Law at Martin Searle Solicitors, said "We have been contacted by many employees who believe they have been unfairly selected for redundancy or whose employers have failed to make reasonable adjustments for their disability. We are a campaigning law firm who educate employers to follow best practice while fighting for employees who have been discriminated against. This is because we want to make disability discrimination at work a thing of the past."
Martin Searle Solicitors have produced a series of free factsheets, case studies and FAQs for employers and employees covering basic disability rights, as well as avoiding disability discrimination in the workplace which are available on their website.
Their campaign includes a virtual seminar for charities and non-profit organisations on Managing Ill Health and Disability, run in partnership with Community Works. This takes place on Thursday 19 October at 10.30am. For more information and to book, click here.
They will also run a virtual seminar for HR and Employment Professionals on Managing Ill Health and Disability in association with MBL Seminars, from 1pm on Thursday 26 October which you can book here.
Martin Searle Solicitors are providing a free 30 minute confidential advice line for employers and employees on disability rights and employer duties throughout October 2023.
Employers,employees and workers can call 01273 609911 from 3.30pm - 5.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For more information, please visit www.ms-solicitors.co.uk/disability-matters