Disability charity Scope has published A Million Futures, which surveyed more than 600 disabled adults. It found that last year 220,000 more disabled people dropped out of the workplace than found jobs.
Disabled people report that the single most important factor in creating inclusive workplaces is having flexibility in their working time and practices. 40% of all employed disabled people say that modified hours have enabled them to stay in work; 36% of those out of work say that modified hours could have helped them retain their job.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: “Disabled people are finding work – this is welcome news. But a scandalously high number – some 430,000 – have dropped out of work last year.
“It’s now clear we’ve been blinkered in our approach to disabled people and work. At the moment all the focus is on getting unemployed disabled people into jobs. We need to look into how we can make work places more flexible, welcoming environments where disabled people flourish rather than struggle.”
Scope said more flexibility around sickness absence is needed and many would benefit from short periods of time working reduced hours. It said there is currently too little flexibility to put these adjustments in place, meaning unnecessary reliance on full-time sick leave – despite people wanting to remain in or return to work.
Scope said the lack of flexibility within sick leave is also problematic for employers, who lose the productivity, networks and considerable experience that disabled employees bring. It has called on government to introduce a new type of adjustment leave. This would allow all employees to take a time-limited period of leave on a part-time basis.
The report said: “The binary distinction in current sick leave policy between ‘sickness’ and ‘health’ does not reflect the reality of many disabled people’s lives. Having the option to take a time-limited period of part-time leave would enable many disabled people to put in place the necessary support, and be able to return to work full-time.”
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