Disabled people at work

Disabled people at work

Accepted as equals?

Disabled people, who make up one in five of the working-age population, are less likely to be
in employment than their non-disabled counterparts. Public attitudes, and the willingness or
otherwise of employers and employees to welcome disabled people in the workplace, may be an important barrier to their employment. This chapter analyses attitudes towards disabled people in the workplace and how they vary towards people with physical impairments and people with mental health conditions.

Download the chapter.

The public support equal chances for disabled people in the workplace but would not necessarily want to work with a disabled person

The public is generally in favour of giving disabled people an equal chance in the workplace but would not necessarily be willing to have a disabled person as a colleague or their boss.
This outlook may be tied to the perception that disabled people may not do as good a job as a
non-disabled person.

  • 49% think attempts to give people with physical impairments an equal chance in the workplace have not gone far enough.
  • 69% of the public would be comfortable having someone with a visual impairment as a
    colleague while 67% would be comfortable having them as a boss.
  • 41% think that in most workplaces people with a visual impairment are thought of as doing as good a job as anybody else most of the time.

People are particularly likely to hold negative attitudes towards workers with mental health conditions

Attitudes towards people with mental health conditions, especially people with more severe and less common mental health conditions, tend to be more negative than attitudes towards people with physical impairments.

  • 55% would be comfortable having someone with depression as a colleague and 39% would be happy having a colleague with schizophrenia. In contrast, 71% would be comfortable having someone with a mobility impairment as a colleague.
  • Whereas 72% would be happy having someone with a mobility impairment as their boss, only 46% would be happy having someone with depression as their boss.
  • Around one in four people say that in most workplaces people with depression (23%) and people with schizophrenia (26%) are hardly ever or never thought of as doing just as good a job as anyone else.

People with personal experience of disability hold more positive attitudes towards disabled workers

People who have experience of disability, either as a result of being disabled themselves, or
knowing someone who is disabled, would be more willing to work with disabled people. Experience of mental health conditions has a particularly strong positive impact on attitudes towards workers with mental health conditions.

  • 78% of people with a physical impairment and 72% who know someone with a physical
    impairment would be comfortable with a boss who had a visual impairment. This falls to 61% of people who know no one with a physical impairment.
  • 74% of people with a mental health condition would be comfortable having someone with depression as their boss. This compares with 46% of those who know someone with a mental health condition and only 26% of those who do not know anyone with a mental health condition.

Download the chapter.

Download chapter