Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Workers with invisible disabilities lacking adequate support at work, research shows

Out-Law News | 25 May 2023 | 12:14 pm |

Helen Corden tells HRNews about HR’s role in raising awareness of invisible disabilities in the workplace

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  • Transcript

    New research shows that over two thirds of employees with invisible disabilities believe it’s up to them to get the support and reasonable adjustments that they need at work. More than a third, 38%, say budget cuts have meant they aren’t getting the support they need at work.

    The study by diversity and inclusion consultancy INvolve coincides with the launch of its Enable Role Model List, sponsored by HSBC. It showcases 20 individuals who are using their personal experiences of disability, neurodiversity or mental health to advance inclusion for others in the workplace and put the spotlight on the initiatives that are helping to drive progress for inclusion globally.

    Personnel Today and People Management both cover this, and they highlight the top three support mechanisms favoured by employees with invisible disabilities. They are:

    1 Flexible working hours (48%)

    2 Training for managers and senior leadership on non-visible disabilities (39%); and

    3 Training for other employees on non-visible disabilities (35%)

    They quote INvolve CEO Suki Sandhu. He says: “Our research has shed light on the stark reality for those with invisible disabilities in the UK. Businesses must do better to ensure that employees have reasonable adjustments in place and the right infrastructure to enable them to fulfil their job roles and progress within their careers.”

    It is the second significant piece of research on this following a paper published in January highlighting the challenges facing people with invisible disabilities in employment and higher and further education. It is called Invisible Disabilities in Education and Employment and is the work of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology which produces impartial briefings for Parliament from time to time.

    The report found that those with invisible disabilities are conflicted over whether to disclose them. That is mainly due to concerns about disbelief, stigma or confidentiality, and difficulties accessing the services and support they need. So, in the context of the workplace, something for HR professionals to be aware of. Helen Corden works in the education sector and earlier she joined me by video-link to discuss the report:

    Helen Corden: “It's really useful. It's a really interesting piece of research because it highlights the extent of invisible disabilities. So, for example, it gives this statistic that 70% to 80% of all disabilities are invisible disabilities and when I read this research, I think that really hit home that we need to raise awareness of these invisible disabilities within the workplace because they are so predominant now. It’s also more important because more and more people are being diagnosed with invisible disabilities in adult life, especially those neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia, or autism or dyspraxia. So, it's more important for both managers, for example, and HR teams to be aware that hidden disabilities are more prevalent within the workforce.”

    Joe Glavina: “In the report they highlight adjustment passports as an effective way to help people with disabilities. They are not a legal requirement but nonetheless worth consideration.”

    Helen Corden: “I think the proposed adjustment passport is a is a really interesting one. These are commonly used already in the public sector and also within the education sector and essentially what they do is provide a summary of the individual's disability and then the support or the adjustments that they need in the workplace, or the education setting, in order to support them and allow them to complete their duties. They can be very useful especially in settings, for example, where an individual is moving between departments or moving between different managers because what they can do is that the individual, or that department or manager, can have that passport and the individual then doesn't have to explain on each and every occasion what their disability is, or what their adjustments are. They can give the department or the manager the passport and it's all very clear and it avoid any ambiguity in terms of what is needed, it avoids managers being unaware of what adjustments may be needed. So, they can prove incredibly helpful.”

    That report is by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and is called ‘Invisible Disabilities in Education and Employment’. We’ve put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.


    - Link to report by Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

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