During pandemic one fifth of disabled workers had work from home requests refused

A staggering 20% of disabled workers had their requests to work from home declined. This also included requests to be furloughed or redeployed during the pandemic.

Disability Charity Scope carried out a survey which showed that 22% of disabled workers were faced with the choice of going to their workplace or quitting their jobs.

Scope is now calling on government to place the extremely vulnerable, such as those who are disabled, in a category where they have an automatic right to furlough.

Of all the respondents, 18% had their requests to work from home denied, while 11% were declined furlough when they asked for it. A further 11% were told they could not be redeployed in any other positions.

Over half of the people who were surveyed said that they felt they (disabled people) had simply been forgotten when the government made recent recovery announcements.

Executive director of strategy for Scope, James Taylor said that any decisions about furlough and redeployment were made at the company discretion. This means that there is currently no guarantee for disabled people to keep their jobs protected.

Mr Taylor stated that furlough is a vitally important safety net for disabled people who do not feel safe at work and have jobs which cannot be done from their homes.

If this decision is left to employers’ discretion there is no guarantee that any disabled employee will be protected when they feel unsafe in the workplace.

A spokesperson for the Treasury responded by saying that it was the responsibility of employers to ensure the safety of those staff members with disabilities when they considered work arrangements. This included considering jobs that can be worked remotely. It is up to the employer to make use of the furlough scheme, should they choose to do so.

The survey by Scope further showed a disparity between geographical areas and age groups. Only 30% of people between 18-34 years of age had been refused a request to work from home. In this age group 20% had been refused redeployment, with 15% having a request for furlough declined.

The workers who had their requests refused was greatest in London where almost 33% were unable to work from home and 21% had furlough requests refused.

Mr Taylor added that it was a ‘sad indication of attitudes and views towards disability when disabled people had no option but to quit their jobs so that they could stay safe at home.’ Disabled workers’ rights regarding the furlough need to be strengthened.

‘There is a wealth of evidence which shows many disabled people are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, and it’s growing by the day. Two-thirds of all those who have died from coronavirus were disabled. Many disabled people are more at risk from coronavirus and are extremely worried about what would happen if they were to get it.’

Scope’s latest research regarding the existing legislation to provide protection shows clearly that the government scheme is not working. It will only work when people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable have an automatic right to furlough. Only then will people not be forced to make impossible choices.

Mr Taylor said that the government needs to act immediately to stop the damage resulting from Covid-19 and the economic fallout which will lead to disability unemployment.

Earlier this year in September Scope launched their ‘We won’t be forgotten’ campaign. The goal of this was to bring attention to the ways disabled people have been ignored and overlooked by the government through the pandemic.

Over 300,000 people signed an open letter to the government. The letter asked for a new deal for disabled people, showing that they had not been forgotten and overlooked in the government’s plan for recovery and beyond.


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