Majority of disabled workers want to continue home working post-pandemic
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Visually impaired employee

A majority of disabled workers who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue doing so in the post-covid era, according to a recent poll.

Nine in 10 disabled workers surveyed by the TUC want to continue working from home at least some of the time.

Around seven in 10 (68%) disabled workers want some form of hours-based flexibility, with one-quarter (25%) saying their ideal work pattern would be to work flexi-time, and 23% want to work part-time.

One-quarter (25%) also said they wanted to have flexibility around start and end times, sometimes called flexitime.

The polling also found that remote working for disabled workers – experienced by many for the first time during the pandemic – was a game-changer and had a positive impact on their working lives.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of disabled workers said that remote working gave them greater control over their working hours.

Just under half (47%) said they had been able to change their work routines, with two in five (40%) claiming that home working reduced their tiredness and fatigue.

More than one-quarter (26%) said their mental health had improved, while more than one in five (21%) 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, however. One-third of disabled workers (34%) said that working from home they lacked proper office equipment such as a desk, chair, or computer.   

One in 11 (9%) experienced difficulties taking part in online meetings because of their disability, impairment, or health condition, and one in 14 (7%) lacked the software they needed to do their job – such as speech-to-text programmes. 

TUC research found that more than half (55%) of disabled workers who asked their employers for reasonable adjustments during the pandemic said that they had been made in full. 

The TUC argues that enabling flexible working practices can be a reasonable adjustment and should be considered to support disabled workers.

The congress is calling on employers to ensure that disabled workers who worked from home during the pandemic can continue to do so and consider 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.

“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,” commented TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

“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.”

The TUC also renewed its call on the government to ensure workers are allowed to work flexibly from day one of their employment, unless there are exceptional circumstances that prevent it.

Workers should have the right to appeal any rejections, said the TUC, and there should be no limit on how many times an employee can request flexible working arrangements each year. 

In addition, the TUC urged the Equality and Human Rights Commission to update its statutory Code of Practice on disabled people and employment to include more examples of what timely implementation of reasonable adjustments looks like and reflects the advances in home and flexible working during the pandemic.