Definition of Disability
A disabled person is defined as someone with a physical or mental
impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' effect on their
ability to do normal daily activities (Equality Act 2010).
Disabled People in the Workplace
Based on the most recent census, around 20% of the population of
Scotland have a long-term activity limiting health problem or
disability. Among the disabled population of the country,
employment rates are typically much lower than non-disabled people.
Recent employment rates in Scotland show that around 40 per cent of
disabled people aged 16-64 are working compared to around 80 per
cent of non-disabled people. Our aim is to shift the focus of
disabled people and employment, from what they can't do, to what
they CAN do.
For many disabled people work is seen as a source of income, and
meaningful activity. More importantly, they feel they are
contributing to their society. This is a theme that focus groups
around the country have consistently found:
"If you are working it makes you feel better rather than
having to sit in a room because you have nowhere to go and no money
to go out and do something"
(Capability Scotland focus group)
"I've always thought work is the important thing, it's how I
was brought up, get out there and work"
(SAMH focus group)
"I want to move forward and get a job"
(Action on Hearing Loss Scotland focus group)
The truth is that many disabled people say that they are
available for work, and that they want to work. Unfortunately, for
many, they feel that this desire is not matched in the work place
and that they face significant barriers when trying to enter the
The barriers faced by disabled job seekers will vary from
individual to individual, but some examples are included below:
- Employer attitudes and discrimination: Most
people living with a disability have experienced some form of
stigma, stereotyping or discrimination. This ranges from very minor
incidents to more serious cases of harassment and bullying.
- Transportation: A lack of accessible or
convenient transport may interfere with a person's ability to be
independent and to function in society.
- Physical: Structural obstacles that block
mobility or access can prevent disabled people from moving in and
around the workplace.
- Lack of or low qualifications: Disabled people
are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to have no
qualifications (26% as opposed to 10%).
- Lack of confidence: Many disabled people are
anxious of how their disability will be viewed/treated by an
employer or colleagues.
- Communication: Communication barriers are
experienced by people who have disabilities that affect hearing,
speaking, reading, writing, and or understanding, and who use
different ways to communicate than people who do not have these
Benefits for Employers
There are a huge range of benefits for businesses in employing
people with disabilities. Most importantly, employers can gain
access to a wider pool of talent and skills that is largely
As well as this, schemes such as Access to Work means that
businesses can receive money for any extra costs incurred as a
result of employing a person with a disability.
Some other benefits of employing people with disabilities
- Gain access to a wider pool of talent and
skills. Overlooking someone because of their disability or
health issue is a missed opportunity for businesses.
- Improved engagement. Organisations that
support disabled employees benefit from improved engagement,
loyalty, productivity and retention. Staff with disabilities are
among the most loyal and engaged employees.
- Improved wellbeing and productivity. Having a
more diverse work force which includes disabled staff improves
general wellbeing and productivity.
- Creating a fair workforce. Businesses
employing disabled people are leading the way to a more diverse,
inclusive and fairer workforce in Scotland.
- Avoiding additional recruitment costs.
Providing early, timely support to a disabled person who may be
having problems at work, can improve retention rates, prevent or
reduce time off work, and benefit the business by avoiding
additional recruitment costs and retaining that person's expertise
Policies and Interventions
In 2016 the Scottish Government published its new Disability
Delivery Plan, 'A Fairer
Scotland for Disabled People', which will work to remove the
barriers disabled people can face when it comes to finding and
sustaining employment. To ensure that everybody who can and wants
to work has the opportunity to find fulfilling jobs, the Scottish
Government is working with stakeholders towards a long term
ambition of halving the disability employment gap in Scotland
In the Scotland we want:
- Disabled people are visible and participating within
communities, learning and education, volunteering and
- There are equal opportunities for disabled people in education
- Greater understanding and a positive attitude exist amongst
employers and educators to disabled people.
- There is improved awareness and understanding of
discrimination, prejudice and barriers faced by disabled people
including the physical environment, stigma and negative
- Benefits are delivered in a way that is rights-based and helps
meet the additional living and mobility costs of disabled people
and treats them with dignity and respect throughout the
In 2010, the Scottish Government published 'A
Working Life for all Disabled People: The Supported Employment
Framework for Scotland', which set out the government's
commitment to a more consistent, person-centred approach to
supporting disabled people who want to work.
The Scottish Government's Employability Framework for Scotland,
for Growth' published 2012 also acknowledged the importance of
raising the employment rates of disabled people and highlighted the
need to improve the quality, variety and availability of
employability support for disabled people. It also encouraged the
continuation of activities to promote the recruitment and retention
of disabled workers in public bodies and suggested that this should
be supplemented by awareness raising around the benefits of a
Employment support for disabled people is provided by Jobcentre
Plus, Local Authorities, Third Sector Organisations and Skills
In Jobcentre Plus, Disability Employment Advisers help clients
to find work or to gain new skills and also provide information
about disability friendly employers within their local area. They
may also refer clients to a specialist work psychologist, where
appropriate, or carry out an 'employment assessment'.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also offers Access to
Work. Access to Work can pay for practical support if you
have a disability, health or mental health condition to help
- start working
- stay in work
- move into self-employment or start a business
Advice for employers seeking to recruit disabled people is
available from The
The Scottish Government offers support to employers recruiting
disabled 16-29 year olds.
The Scottish Employer Recruitment Incentive (SERI) offers up to
£4,000 when a company commits to a new job or Modern Apprentice for
a disabled person.
Open Doors - In-work Support for 16 - 29 year olds is a package
of tailored 'In-Work Support' to complement and enhance SERI.
Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has developed an
equality tool for employers and training providers in relation
to the information and guidance they need to support individuals,
including those with disabilities.
SDS also provide
general advice and support on how to create a more inclusive
The Equality Act
Disabled people should have freedom, dignity, choice and control
over their lives. We want to remove the barriers that stop people
from enjoying equal access to full citizenship.
In Scotland, responsibility for issues that affect disabled
people are split between issues reserved to the UK Government, and
areas that the Scottish Government are responsible for.
The Scottish Government are responsible for most public services
including: local councils, education, housing, social work and the
NHS in Scotland.
The Equality Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that
addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. The following
are the characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination
relating to any of these characteristics and individuals who feel
they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds
can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also
prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against
a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings
under the Act.
The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas
including employment, the provision of goods and services to the
public and the exercise of public functions. The UK Government is
responsible for equality legislation including the Equality
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