Nine in 10 disabled workers surveyed (90 per cent) who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue doing so at least some of the time, according to a TUC poll.
- An overwhelming majority of disabled workers who worked from home during the pandemic told the TUC that they want to continue doing so permanently
- Employers have a duty to put in place reasonable adjustments for disabled workers which can include enabling flexible and home working, says union body
- TUC calls for government to make sure that disabled workers who worked from home during the pandemic can continue to do so
The poll – run by YouGov for the TUC – found that many disabled workers experienced working from home for the first time during the pandemic.
Working from home was a gamechanger for many disabled workers
Disabled workers who were able to work from home told the TUC that it had had a positive impact on them and their working lives:
- Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) said that it gave them greater control over their working hours
- Just under half (47 per cent) said they had been able to change their work routines
- Two in five (40 per cent) said that it reduced their tiredness and fatigue
- More than a quarter (26 per cent) said their mental health had improved
- More than one in five (21 per cent) said that working from home had helped them better manage their caring responsibilities
Not all organisations managed the transition to working from home well enough, though. One third of disabled workers (34 per cent) who worked from home said that they lacked proper office equipment such as a desk, chair or computer.
One in 11 (nine per cent) experienced difficulties taking part in online meetings because of their disability, impairment or heath condition and one in 14 (seven per cent) lacked the software they needed to do their job – such as speech to text programmes.
Widening access to flexible work helps disabled people stay in work
TUC research has found that only just over half (55 per cent) of those who asked their employers for reasonable adjustments during the pandemic said that they had been made in full. Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for all disabled employees – both those working from a workplace and those working from home.
The TUC says that enabling flexible working practices can be a reasonable adjustment – and should be considered to support disabled workers. Most disabled people told the TUC that they wanted continued access to flexible working practices after the pandemic:
- Three in four (75 per cent) disabled workers who can work from home said that they would like to be able to do so at least some of the time
- Just under seven in 10 (68 per cent) of all disabled workers want some form of hours based flexibility. 25 per cent said their ideal work pattern would be to work flexi-time, and 23 per cent want to work part-time
- A quarter (25 per cent) said they wanted to have flexibility around start and end times, sometimes called flexitime
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady:
“Disabled people were hit hard by Covid-19. Six in ten of all Covid deaths were of disabled people.
“Disabled workers still face barriers getting and keeping a job – and are often paid less than their non-disabled peers.
“During the pandemic, many disabled people were able to work flexibly or from home for the first time – often after being previously told that it was not possible in their job. Even amid the grief and isolation of the pandemic, these changed working patterns improved the experience of many disabled people at work.
“We can’t go back. Employers must offer all disabled people who can work from home the right to continue working from home, as a reasonable adjustment. And they must offer appropriate flexible working options as standard in all jobs – both as a reasonable adjustment for disabled workers, and as a right for every worker.
“Ministers must change the law so that all jobs are advertised with flexible options clearly stated, and all workers have the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job.”
The TUC is calling for action to help disabled people get the flexibility they need to stay in work, including:
- Make sure that disabled workers who worked from home during the pandemic can continue to do so.
- Unlock the flexibility in all jobs. Every job can be worked flexibly. Employers should think upfront about the flexible working options that are available in a role, publish these in all job adverts and give successful applicants a day one right to take it up.
- Making flexible working a genuine legal right from the first day in a job: People should be allowed to work flexibly from day one, unless there are exceptional circumstances that prevent it. They should have the right to appeal any rejections. And there shouldn’t be a limit on how many times you can ask for flexible working arrangements in a year.
- Make sure every disabled worker gets the reasonable adjustments they need to do their job – which are their legal right. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should update their statutory Code of Practice on disabled people and employment, so it includes more examples of what timely implementation of reasonable adjustments looks like and reflects the advances in home and flexible working during the pandemic.