Last updated: 30 March 2020
In March 2020 a substantial proportion of the UK workforce rapidly transitioned from working in an office to working from home. Depending on the nature of the work delivered, employers’ technological savvy and previous attitudes to working from home, experiences of this transition differed across organisations. However, the rapid move to home working was based on a vision of a ‘model worker’ that was not disabled.
The pandemic forced many employers to throw everything in the air and hope pieces landed in a workable order. For some disabled employees, who had spent months or even years arguing for reasonable adjustments to establish ways of working that enabled them to undertake their role effectively, this transformation of working practices may roll-back progress and exclude people from being able to do their job.
The rapid move to home working was based on a vision of a ‘model worker’ that was not disabled.
Inclusion Scotland, a disabled people’s organisation based in Edinburgh, has published a briefing for MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on the Coronavirus Act 2020, which notes the ‘often unintended and negative consequences for disabled people’. The briefing highlights how the Act appears to remove the requirement for local authorities to conduct social care assessments for disabled people and how this ‘will lead to many disabled people receiving social care support that is inadequate to meet their needs, receiving care that is inappropriate or in inappropriate settings, or receiving no social care support at all’. These issues are also discussed in an investigative report by Karin Goodwin for The Ferret.
Inclusion Scotland’s briefing also identifies changes in legislation related to mental health, including the extension of measures such as detention or treatment orders and a reduction in safeguards, such as reports from a Mental Health Officer. The briefing notes, ‘people should not be subjected to compulsory detention or treatment simply because mental health services are not able to provide appropriate community based support’.
Other documented inequalities include:
- The requirement to use recruitment processes and practices that may disadvantage disabled applicants, for example Skype or telephone interviews.
- In education, qualifications based on assessment methods that may disadvantage disabled students. In turn, this might negatively impact the ability of disabled students to apply for college or university.