95% of SMEs unaware of the legal rights of disabled employees

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You might have seen over the past couple of years that there have been government pushes to get disabled people back into work.

However, despite the numerous attempts by the government to get around one million disabled people into work, a study has concluded that there has only been a 5% increase over the past two years.

If this pattern continues, then only 5,800 disabled people will be back in full-time work by 2027, and this is largely due to the fact that a lot of SME’s right now do not know the legal rights of disabled employees.

95% of SMEs unaware of the legal rights of disabled employees

The Lack Of Knowledge

Despite the knowledge being readily available for people to access, an astounding 95% of SME’s are currently unaware of the legal rights held by disabled employees

These rights are set out in The Equality Act 2010, which was brought in to update previous disability related legislation.

Improving protection for workers and ending discrimination in the workplace was the goal of this act, and this includes disabled people. However, there was a study conducted that used SME’s and gave them a ‘tick any that apply’ questionnaire to fill in, and the results from this were shocking. A tiny 5% of SME’s were correctly able to identify all three of the protections that disabled people have.

This shows a serious lack of knowledge in the sector, which has contributed to the number of disabled people who are not currently working.

41% of people who took part in the survey misidentified the Equality Act protections and 23% answered that they simply did not know.

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The Least Knowledgeable Sectors

You might be shocked to hear that the Human Resources department and the sales department are the two least knowledgeable sectors throughout the companies.

Legal is also another one that struggled to identify the protections, with each of these three departments getting 0% on the questions. Even though these were the sectors that did not get any of the questions right, even the highest scoring, finance, only managed to have 8.3% of employees identifying the protections correctly. 

This demonstrates that there is a severe lack of understanding of the Equality Act and the protections that it offers those who are disabled. It is very surprising to see that those who work closely with employees do not know the protections that they are offered.

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More Training Is Needed

It is not surprising then that 93% of the SME’s said that there should be more education and training on the subject.

42% of SME’s said that they did not have any kind of training in disability employment law, which leaves many questions open about who needs to be training these people. Some think that the government should do more to make sure that the employees and business owners are educated on the subject matter. 

Gwyn Edwards, a specialist employment lawyer here at Neathouse Partners, comments: "Although it is tempting to blame the government for a lack of knowledge, employers should take the initiative and educate themselves on these issues. The legal definition of disability can cover a myriad of conditions and employers who fall foul of the law can find themselves facing high value discrimination claims. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help those who are affected by a disability and by embracing their legal duties, employers can reap the unique skills and life experiences that a diverse workforce can bring to the table".

If you are a business owner and you want to know more about the Equality Act and the law surrounding disabled people’s working rights, then we have a selection of handy articles you can view here.

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About the author

James Rowland

Account Services


James is on the Business Development & Account Management team at Neathouse Partners and regularly posts articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law, including case law & legislation updates. If you have a particular issue you would like addressed, feel free to drop James an email, and he will be happy to offer his assistance.

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