Last week Wave-length held a seminar at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College debating why people with a disability decide not to declare it to their employers. We were delighted to see a wide range of people at the debate including members of ACAS, Adelphi Care,
The seminar really got their thinking caps on as they were presented with a couple of questions to discuss amongst their groups. First of all they were asked to consider what the consequences would be of someone not declaring their disability. A number of interesting things to consider were brought to light on reflection of what the two groups had come up with. It was discussed that not only does a person miss out on support and possibly face their condition getting worse due to stress, it also creates safety issues and may impact on productivity in the workplace. If a person has a disability or condition that is manageable on a normal day to day basis they may not feel the need to inform their employer, but the question is does their situation change if they were to have an accident at work? so they may wish to still inform their employer in order to manage a ‘what if’ or in an emergency situation, of course even if the condition is managed there might be a need to have time off for an annual hospital check-up of the condition. These are healthy and safety implications that need to be addressed, despite whether or not the disability affects their capability to do their job. This definitely needs to be considered when deciding if a disability should be disclosed to an employer. From our previous research it seems that declaring a disability is almost always perceived as a negative thing by those with the condition and that it has a high chance of leading to discrimination and eventually unemployment, when in actual fact some employers are only interested in a person declaring a disability so they know the implications of it and what can be done to support them in the workplace in regards to health and safety to protect their wellbeing.Shropshire Housing and Telford and Wrekin Council.
Also, another important point that was discussed was the lack of productivity in the workplace due to an employer being unaware of a disability. If a person is suffering from a disability and refuses to declare it to their employer because they are worried about the implications, this equally goes against them in terms of support. If an employer is aware of a member of staff with a disability, then adjustments can be made in order to support them and allow them to continue with their day to day work comfortably, therefore improving productivity for both the employer and employee. The employee will receive necessary support and adjustments, which will make them more comfortable and less stressed, and the employer will understand the implications of the disability, what needs to be done and a reasonable expectation level can be set.
But on reflection, it was determined that it should not just be down to the employee to declare their disability. It was agreed that an employer should be able to recognise a difference in their member of staff, even if it is only minor, and they should be confident enough to ask them if they are ok. Particularly as around 70% of disabilities are developed whilst a person is at work. Leading on from the input from one of the two solicitors that attended, it was suggested that there comes a point where it becomes a legal obligation to find out about and support a member of staff who has a disability, and employers should carry out an audit trial of all communications with an employee. So even if the employee in question refuses to declare their disability, they as an employer can legally show that they have done everything they can in order to find out about and support a member of staff with a disability.
It was great to see everyone collaborating ideas to pull together some very informative answers. Especially as the legal side of things could be discussed and considered with the help of those that specialised in law and the legalities of the subject of discussion.
After feeding back some very interesting and informative answers to the first question, they were then asked to break away again to discuss what employers should be implementing or changing within the workplace. The main answer for this, that everybody seemed to feel strongly about, was training and education. A point was made that employers should be trained on the benefits of employing a person with a disability. Agreeably, the culture of businesses needs to be changed in order to fully welcome a new worker with a disability. Far too often employing a person with a disability is seen as a negative thing and it needs to be addressed and be replaced with enrichment. In fact, why aren’t people with disabilities in the workplace celebrated? Surely we should be celebrating those people who have excelled despite their disability. This should be an opportunity for role models to be created in the workplace to be created instead of obstacles. Interestingly, it was not just suggested that managers and supervisors should be educated on disability, but the employees should also undergo training in disability so that they too can learn about and understand a disability and its implications, therefore creating a fully educated workforce that can work together to support their colleagues, instead of solely relying on the managers to put everything into place.
It is fair to say that the event went amazingly well, exceeding our expectations here at Wave-length and we could not be more delighted. ACAS have even asked if we will deliver these seminars in other areas of the Midlands for them such as Birmingham. 100% positive feedback was received and everyone who attended said they found the seminar very engaging, useful and interesting and would definitely attend another one of our sessions again. So after the seminar being so successful by bringing together people from very different fields and receiving amazing amounts of support and positive feedback, we will definitely be planning some more events like this.
Wave-length would like to thank Shrewsbury Sixth Form College for providing the room and also to everyone who attended and supported the event. We are looking forward to planning and running the next seminar elsewhere in the Midlands.
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