UK explores disability workforce reporting requirements

Out-Law News | 20 Dec 2021 | 4:23 pm | 2 min. read

More UK employers would think more actively about how they can include people with disabilities within their organisation, but would face challenges in data gathering, if proposals under consideration in the UK are implemented, according to experts in disability law.

The UK government has opened a consultation on disability workforce reporting (38-page / 374KB PDF) aiming, among other things, to “understand how and what information is currently collected by employers on disability in the workforce, the impact to business, and the behaviours it causes”. The consultation is further aimed at assessing whether there is a case to require large employers – those with more than 250 employees – to report information about people with disabilities in their workforce, in line with stipulated standards.

Ian Warner of Pinsent Masons said: “Getting the right information about disabled people working in any organisation is hugely important as it allows us to make sure we can help those that need it so they can feel as happy and supported at work as everyone else. It is really encouraging that the government is looking at ways to help here whilst also recognising the importance a diverse workforce, including disabled people, has on improving the financial performance of a business.”

In its consultation, the government has asked employers whether they “currently collect information on the proportion of disabled people in your workforce” and, if so, what information they collect and how they collect it. The government is also seeking to better understand what the cost to businesses is of their data gathering, how they use the data in their organisation and whether they publish the data externally. For businesses that do not currently report, the government wants to understand why that is the case.

There is an existing voluntary framework for disability workforce reporting. The government is also using its consultation to get more information on how well known and used that framework is.

Amy Hextell of Pinsent Masons said: “The Equality Act 2010 contains legal protections for disabled people from discrimination, including even before an offer of employment is made by prohibiting certain pre-employment health questions. It is also the legislative basis for the positive legal duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments, which recognises that in order to achieve equity, there is a need to sometimes treat disabled people more favourably in order to remove disadvantages, whether they be physical access challenges or the indirect disadvantage caused by certain policies or practices an employer has.”

“However, data suggests that of around the seven million disabled people of working age in the UK, only around half are in employment and research and feedback suggests employers are missing out on the talent and experience of disabled people because of prejudice and barriers that still persist,” she said.

In July this year, the government published its national disability strategy which aims at improving the experience of people with disabilities not just in work but across all aspects of life. Consulting on taking the voluntary framework for disability workforce reporting further was one of the actions for government set out in the strategy.

Hextell said that a possible positive outcome from the government’s consultation would be the introduction of disability pay gap reporting requirements on large employers in the UK.

Hextell said: “Practically speaking, a reporting requirement presents a significant challenge for employers, because good data in relation to disability within the workforce is difficult to obtain, not least because there is still stigma around disclosing a disability at work. A legal obligation to report would ensure employers are thinking more actively about disability inclusion which is something they probably won’t have had to do before.”

“Before being able to report, however, I think employers need to be taking practical action towards improving disability inclusion at work and demonstrating to a disabled workforce that this is about more than simply meeting legal obligations. Otherwise, the data simply isn’t going to be there to make the reporting requirement meaningful,” she said.

Hextell recently outlined the actions that employers can take to become more disability inclusive. These include Reviewing recruitment processes, educating the workforce on the use of inclusive language, implement a disability allyship initiative, considering whether there is proximity bias in the organisation and addressing it if so, and avoiding generalisations and making assumptions when assessing an employee’s disability and their needs.