Supporting disabled colleagues at work

I’m a manager - how can I support disabled colleagues at work? Siân Caulfield, CSP equality and diversity national officer, answers your questions

Siân Caulfield is the CSP’s national officer (equality & diversity)
Siân Caulfield is the CSP’s national officer (equality & diversity)

Being or becoming disabled, including developing a long-term health condition, does not necessarily mean the end of a physiotherapy career. Providing reasonable adjustments as an employer is enshrined in law under the Equality Act 2010 (and its Northern Ireland equivalent) but there is also great value to retaining staff and the knowledge and experience they have. 

Labour Force Survey figures show that there are 6.8 million disabled people of working age in Britain, representing one in five of the working population. 

In general, disabled people are disadvantaged in the workforce. It is likely that as a manager you have encountered many disabled people – both as colleagues and patients.

What can you do to support them?

Research from the NHS shows that a key barrier to increasing the recruitment of disabled staff is line manager understanding – specifically what support and action you can take as a line manager. Understanding your organisations offer for disabled workers is the first place to start.

As a line manager, consider the following:

  • do you know what a reasonable adjustment is?
  • who is responsible for co-ordinating workplace support for disabled staff, including accessing reasonable adjustments?
  • do you know how to refer a staff member to occupational health?
  • do you know what kinds of adjustments can be made in your work area?
  • do you know what the sickness absence leave policy is for disabled staff? 
  • is your organisation a Disability Confident employer? 
  • do you know about Access to Work and how, as an employment support programme, they can help disabled people stay in or start employment?
  • are there any support networks, such as a disabled staff network, that staff can access? 

An employer has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments if a person needs them to carry out or be able to start a new job. Use our reasonable adjustments web guide to understand how you can better support disabled colleagues. 

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