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Coronavirus Pandemic

Workers with disabilities plunged into crisis by COVID

young woman in wheelchair with colleagues working in office

Persons with disabilities could face a “jobs crisis” amid the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, a leading charity has warned.

7 in 10 disabled people surveyed by Leonard Cheshire had seen a hit to their income, furlough, unemployment, or other damaging effects resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The study suggests that the representation of disabled people in the workplace is in decline amid lingering discrimination in disabled people’s employment.

The Leonard Cheshire charity also suggests that employers seem to be discouraged from hiring disabled people due to the coronavirus crisis.
In a survey of 1,171 working-age disabled people and 502 employers, two in five hiring managers said that a barrier from hiring disabled staff was “being able to support them properly” during the coronavirus pandemic.

One-fifth of employers admitted they were less likely to hire a disabled candidate overall.

“In the past, I’ve been told I didn’t get a job I applied for because they were concerned my health would ‘get in the way,’ that they needed someone who could be relied upon (referring to my disability) and that I’d be a burden to the company. This has to change.” said Sophia Kleanthous, an alumna of Leonard Cheshire’s Change 100 programme.

According to the Office for National Statistics, of the 7.7 million disabled people of working age in the UK, 53.6% are currently in work, compared with 81.7% of those who are not disabled.

“Our findings are stark. But we should see them not as gloomy forecasts for policymakers but as motivators for immediate, wide-ranging action. We must stress that prompt, decisive action can stop the trends we have identified from becoming more serious.” said
Gemma Hope, Head of Policy at Leonard Cheshire

“Still, we cannot understate the urgency of the challenge. Our study suggests that inclusive practices at employers have been put at risk by fears relating to COVID-19 as the economic outlook darkens. We urge the government to take on the recommendations we make in the Plan For Jobs, and work with businesses to make our recovery from this downturn an inclusive one.”

Leonard Cheshire has urged the government to act on the problems uncovered by the report. In particular, the charity pointed to measures in its own’ Plan For Jobs’, published earlier this month.

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