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Disability and Work

6 Facts You Might Not Know About Disability and Work. The Papworth Trust have been producing a report, annually, for the past 5 years which contains statistics around disability and work.  There are some interesting stats around disability and work. Occupational therapy large
  1. Over 50% of working age people who are out of work (either unemployed or economically inactive) are disabled people.
  2. Disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. In March 2013, the unemployment rate for disabled people stood at 12%, compared to 7.6% of non-disabled people.
  3. 57% of adults with impairments experience barriers to employment (in the type or amount of paid work they do), compared with 26% of adults without impairments.
  4. The 2 most commonly stated enablers for employment among adults with impairments are flexible hours/days and tax credits.
  5. The 2 most common barriers to work among adults with impairments are a lack of job opportunities (43%) and difficulty with transport (29%).
  6. 1 in 6 people who become disabled while in work lose their job during the first year after becoming disabled.

Flexible working and disability

8 Reasons why Flexible Working for people with disabilities is good for the Employer as well as the Employee.

The Papworth Trust report ‘Disability in the United Kingdom 2013, Fact and Figures’ reports that one of the most commonly stated enablers for employment among adults with impairments is flexible working hours/days.

blog image3Being creative is important when considering flexible hours. Below are some examples which could act as prompts for line managers and employees exploring this issue together

  • Take a flexible approach to start/finish times and/or shift patterns
  • Allow use of paid or unpaid leave for medical appointments
  • Phase the return to work, e.g. offering temporary part-time hours
  • Equal amount of break time, but in shorter, more frequent chunks
  • Allow someone to arrange their annual leave so that is spaced regularly throughout the year
  • Allow the possibility to work from home at times
  • Temporary reallocation of some tasks often improve output where its needed
  1. Making these adjustments could help avoid unplanned absences and enable you to manage and cover planned absences from the work place.
  2. These adjustments could reduce sickness absence time taken by the employee and will improve punctuality issues.
  3. Flexible working patterns allows people to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and are more able to work.
  4. These adjustments can be used as part of the employee’s recovery so need not be permanent.
  5. Flexible working times will give the employee an increased feeling of personal control over schedule and work environment and in turn a feeling of being able to manage their condition.
  6. Flexible hours of work are likely to reduce employee burnout due to overload.
  7. A flexible approach could allow the employer to respond to peaks and troughs in work demands as they occur.
  8. Being responsive and flexible improves morale and productivity and will also improve recruitment and retention

Reasonable adjustments for hearing impairment

Reasonable adjustments for people with hearing impairments.

The overall aim of making reasonable adjustments for disabled workers with hearing impairments should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any disadvantage faced by a disabled worker.  In cases of ‘reasonable adjustment’ it is acceptable to treat disabled people better or ‘more favourably’ than non-disabled people and sometimes this may be part of the solution.

Many people who are deaf or have a hearing loss will be considered disabled under The Equality Act 2010 in Great Britain and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland so you should be prepared to make some adjustments for them

Here are 3 really straight forward adjustments for you to consider for your workplace

1: Changing a provision.

If the employee with hearing loss is required to sit facing away from their colleagues they will not know when their colleagues are talking to them.

It would therefore be reasonable to allow them to sit where they are able to see their colleagues and therefore feel more included in the team. If it is a requirement for all team members to answer the telephone, invest in some specialist equipment or allow the person with hearing loss to respond to the written correspondence instead.

2: Adjusting physical features.

As well as changing existing provisions, e.g. the layout of an office, you may want to adjust other physical features. For example, hold meetings in locations that have less background noise.

Book a private meeting room rather than holding meetings in crowded communal areas with background noises such as telephones ringing, or conversations taking place.

3:Providing equipment.

Providing equipment such as an induction loop and / or amplified or hearing aid compatible telephones could help employees who are deaf or have a hearing loss perform the same tasks as people without hearing impairment.

For more information and really good advice about hearing loss visit ‘Action on hearing loss’


What the heck is “wellbeing”?

Wellbeing – you hear a lot about it these days, from the “economic wellbeing” of the nation to our own “mental wellbeing”.  It’s one of those words like “holistic” that we are pretty sure we know what it means, but rather hope nobody asks us to explain it.  In this article we look at what “wellbeing at work” is all about.

The dictionary definition for wellbeing is “a state of being comfortable, healthy or happy”.   The Social Audit Network says: “You can think of someone as having high well-being if they function well, have positive feelings day-to-day and overall and think their lives are going well; we call this ‘flourishing’.”    By that definition most of us might enjoy wellbeing about once a week.

So far so good, but what does it mean in the work place?  The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says wellbeing is about: “Creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation.

The definition might sound like motherhood and apple pie, but the origins of the wellbeing agenda in the UK can be traced back to the early 2000s and the convergence of three very real, hard-headed public policy issues:

  1. Unsustainable numbers of people on Incapacity/Sickness Benefit.
  2. Increasing costs to business and, more acutely, the public sector, of sickness absence and an increasing proportion sickness due to mental health problems.
  3. The demographic implications of an ageing population that are going to require people to work longer into their old age.

In short, keeping people healthy and at work was becoming a critical issue for the wellbeing of the nation.  

 It also became clear that achieving the objective of keeping people at work and productive would involve action across a wider range of issues than just pay, conditions and traditional health and safety.   The wellbeing movement recognised that employees are more likely to stay at work and be more productive if they are:

  • physically and mentally well;
  • content and happy about their work;
  • engaged and motivated;
  • continuously learning and developing;
  • feeling good about the organisation they work for.

Thus, wellbeing is a strategic and wide-ranging programme focused on people’s wellness at work.  It involves organisations working across a number of areas including:

Physical health
Promoting exercise, e.g. cycle to work schemes and subsidised gym membership, promoting healthy eating, improving the working environment and encouraging staff to stop smoking.

Mental health
Managing stress, training in mental health, mindfulness training, access to counseling and encouraging good work life balance.

Personal Development
Mentoring, development plans, career breaks, training accounts.

Company culture
Developing a company culture that employees feel good about and engaged with, e.g.  through strong values and ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, diversity, equality and anti-bullying policies.

Organisation of work
Flexible working, giving employees greater autonomy, management of change.

The key measures of measures of success for wellbeing programmes are through metrics such as sickness absence days, staff turnover, the results of staff surveys and improvements in customer satisfaction and productivity.  Although the number of organisations adopting the wellbeing agenda is growing rapidly, there is limited published data available, but decreases in sickness absence of between 10% and 40% have been reported.

Further reading:

What’s happening with Well-Being at Work?, CIPD 2007

Growing the health and well-being agenda: from first steps to full potential, CIPD, 2016


Six ways to screw-up your staff’s mental health

A-mental healthA growing number of organisations are taking the mental health of their staff seriously and implementing programmes to improving mental wellbeing in the workplace.   However, if you are feeling this has all gone too far, here is our antidote – a six point guide to messing-up your staff’s mental health and boosting your sickness absence figures:   

1.  Allow workloads to become unreasonable 

Most people like to keep busy and will willingly put in some extra effort to address short-term peaks in their work load, like month end.  So, to really stress them you need the feeling of having too much work to do and not enough time to do it to be pretty much constant.  This isn’t that difficult to do as left unchecked the natural effects of mission-creep and Parkinson’s Law will tend to increase workloads.  Add in the effects of some cost-cutting, a bit of down-sizing and some ill-thought through initiatives and you’ll be onto a winner.  While you may regularly doll out new work, try and avoid ever sitting down and reviewing you staff’s workload with them.

2.  Put them to work in an unhealthy environment

This one is quite easy, as mostly it just needs a bit of neglect, a lack of imagination and some penny-pinching.   Make sure there is no natural light and, if it is a job that requires concentration, arrange for plenty of ambient noise.  Keep the place untidy, don’t pay any attention to ergonomics and don’t provide any space where they can get away from the workplace.

3.  Be inflexible over how and when they work

Reducing the level of autonomy over how and when the job is done generally increases stress levels.  So, strict procedures that don’t leave any leeway for initiative – even for something sensible like helping a customer – are good.   You should be equally strict about working hours. They may have young children to bring up or elderly parents to care for, but don’t entertain any requests for flexible working.

4.  Encourage a long-hours culture

Being inflexible about their contract hours, doesn’t mean you can’t get people to work longer.  It’s actually quite easy to do as most people start out motivated, committed and, particularly in the UK, inclined to put the hours in.  And, if you have done No.1 well, they’ll have to stay on to get things finished anyway.  The downside is you have to lead by example, so you’ll have to get used to being the first in the morning and the last to leave at night.  But hey, work-life balance is for wimps, right?

5.  Avoid the human touch

You may well be an altogether reasonable human being, but it is best not to let them know it.  So, don’t spend time getting to know them, don’t praise them and, above all, don’t ask if they are OK.

6.  Keep changing

These days change is the new normal. This is great news, as frequent, poorly-managed change is a sure way to stress your staff.  So, if you can maintain a near constant state of change through a series of top-down “restructuring”, “transformation” or “re-engineering” projects you’ll be on to a winner.  If you can inject some uncertainty into the process, e.g. over who’s going to be going, who’s staying, all the better.  Whatever you do, don’t bother with any of that time-consuming consultation and communications malarkey, it will just undo your hard-work.


Of course we’re just kidding – no one sets out to screw-up their staff’s mental health, but it is easy to do through a lack of awareness.  That’s one of the reasons why we developed our Mental Health Awareness for Managers course.