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Disability and Work

MarkmywordsMarkmywords Posts: 398Member Pioneering
edited November 2017 in Guest blogs
I took part in Scope's research which culminated in their recently published report -  Let’s talk, Improving conversations about disability at work (PDF).

Obtaining employment as a disabled person is very difficult even when you can do the job easily. Having had a great many such experiences, I’d like to share them here in one place in the hope that the way I coped, managed and overcame them might help others.

Mark working on a computer in an office

Becoming redundant

About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a blood related cancer. I worked on through much of the treatment until eventually I had to stop. After a variety of treatments I went into remission where I’ve been ever since. 

Two weeks after returning to my work I was told I had “become redundant.” This made no sense and no-one else had been reviewed. I told them I was going to refer the matter to an Employment Tribunal. The company’s owner made an unusual visit and came to speak with me. He said “What is it going to cost me for you to go quietly?

This was the beginning of my experiences of seeking work as a disabled person.

Seeking work as a disabled person

I found that smaller businesses tended to be less tolerant than larger ones. Also, disabled people are seen as liabilities and not just to the work but because they may play “the disabled card” on them! Even the public sector (schools, councils etc.), while claiming to have high values, proved to be no different.

After many unproductive applications I decided to stop mentioning my disabilities on them. Like it or not, I was in competition with many other applicants.

Recruiters don’t choose the best person, they work by eliminating people for many reasons until they are left with those they will interview.

Application forms can tell you a lot about an organisation. They can be rigid, preventing you from expressing yourself. Sometimes though they can show a much darker agenda that they are following. For instance, I was once given a form where one section was “state any medical conditions you have and any prescription medication you are taking.”

In the workplace,  race, religion, disability, gender and age must not be treated differently.
Collecting such details can have one of two intentions; either it is optional for diversity monitoring and the recruiter will never see it or it is compulsory and for the recruiter alone and they will use it for discrimination.

A separate, private equality questionnaire is probably above board. If questions or a form come from the recruiter then they probably discriminate.

My conditions started to deteriorate during this time but the bills still needed to be paid so I kept going. This meant that I now had to review what jobs I could actually go for in my more limited capacity. 


I started getting interviews when not disclosing my disabilities in the application. At some point the employer will have to find out though. So I decided that once in an interview I could make a case for myself and the value of my skills on my terms. This way I could counter their concerns.  They could also see me being keen and committed.

Interviews can work both ways and I learned to look for any loss of interest in the interviewer when I told them everything. Also I could judge whether they were likely to be a decent employer by how they responded. If they weren’t decent then it’s better to find out before you start than learning the hard way.
Thankfully I’m not at all representative but I’ve had three Settlement Agreements and two Tribunal starts just in order to protect myself and achieve some justice. All went in my favour.

Finding an good employer

Things have worked out for me and I now have an employer who saw past the irrelevant physical problems and saw the opportunities I brought.

When every day is a battle with your own body, with getting around and with getting treated fairly by others it is easy to become totally absorbed by it. You can feel very isolated or even besieged by the world. This mind set is not very helpful but there is help out there and you can avoid this.

Through Scope’s work and their online community, you can share your experiences and see that you aren’t alone. There are others that have been through, or will go through, the same things. Help is out there and you might even be better off for joining in.

Do you have an experience about disability at work that you’d like to share whether it is good or bad?


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  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Posts: 398Member Pioneering
    edited November 2017
    I'm sorry to hear of your trouble @DannyMoore .

    Sometimes weak managers lack the strength to do the right thing and so end up doing the easiest thing for them instead.
    Do they take on a group doing bad things or a single victim who isn't bothering anyone?

    The most rare thing in the world is opportunity. For disabled people it's practically nonexistent.

    I'd like to see a government scheme where unemployed disabled people can be taken on free of charge to an employer for up to three months. During this time they keep any benefits running plus costs of attending work. In order to prevent abuse of the system, at three months they are either properly employed or the employer is barred from further recruitment of that or a similar role for twelve months.

    As for deliberate contempt of the law by employers, Melanie Wilkes made an excellent proposal in her report to expand the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to listen to employee whistle blowers and investigate ongoing bad practice. Something akin to the Health and Safety Executive but for the "human resources" side of the workplace.

    Also, the recruitment website "Indeed" has an employer rating system which I think is progressive. What about a "Trustpilot" or "Trip Advisor" for employers ?

    Consequences and accountability for acts of abuse is the answer.
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  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,288Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hello @Markmywords I enjoyed reading your article on employment.  The thing is what do you do with people like me.  I am a gentleman in my early fifties and tired and sick of the last thirty years or more by employers who have abused and used for their own gains.  In the early eighties there were schemes like you suggested unfortunately highly skilled qualified staff saw this an opportunity to used disabled for the dirty jobs in the work place.  I was one of these disabled.  All day stamping files and the very basic jobs of admin.  Even though I was qualified better than the staff.  Got sacked for standing up and saying the right thing.  I had enough and the company were not bothered they are not paying us.  Also there are many disabled like myself with a huge amount of skills and talent all wasted because for the past thirty years or more have spent getting the right qualifications.  Then told well you have not got this and that.  I want a lawyer present last time I signed on because of the failings of the so called laws on employment for disabled.  I knew people from the USA in my travels around this country of ours.  One person I knew set up a agency for disabled and long term unemployed.  Came from USA and was appalled at the employment barriers and treatment.  I want what they have and I think it will happen one day probably.  In the end went back to USA because of damn if you do damn if you don't attitude of employers.  I should be a multi millionaire with the amount of terrors and treatment, discrimination, bullying that has gone on.  So now on long term sick in the support group.  Lost also faith in the volunteer sector because the same things are happening.  There is a programme on TV Monday night called Employable Me.  About group of disabled who wish to work.  I hope it opens the eyes of those in the employment sector.
  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,288Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    [email protected] I agree what you say.  Please can I add the words you have quoted are very clear to me personally.  I understand where you are coming from.
  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Posts: 398Member Pioneering
    Hello @thespiceman .

    In the past, many schemes have been gamed for profit by abusive employers. YOP, YTS, "New Apprenticeships" to name but a few.
    Gaming the system and turning over staff must be prevented. Employers must not be given money but they won't give someone a chance if they think it will cost them either.

    Relying on retrospective actions from Tribunals is ridiculous. A company credit check brings up any CCJ's it has. It doesn't bring up Tribunal judgements though.
    I don't think the US model of suing everybody is the answer either. Disabled people are already considered a liability.
    No organisation currently polices disability discrimination though.

    Employers are just people, many are often petty and selfish. Nothing is going to stop them feeling that way. However if there are consequences to bad behaviour they will choose to not act on those feelings.
  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,288Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hello @Markmywords Thank you for the comments.  I have read what have said.  I feel very strongly how do we change the mind set of employers.  I was discussing this morning a complete stranger this very issue.  He a bit older than me and struggling well being demonised by the system.  I would love to live in a perfect world.  Until you have been in a all white organisation and there is no body like me and you and no one of ethnic diversity.  One of the lads I had worked with disclosed to me his religious beliefs.  Do not mention that he hollered.  He got found out and was hounded by colleagues who mis understood his good intentions.  They will always be people in companies who have never met anybody like me and you have the demeaning attitude and are of an era who should be educated.  Unfortunately this is not going to happen.  Regarding suing companies I believe that is the answer.  One idea I have is to have a panel set up looking at companies and quotas of disabled in the work place.  Until the government of the day starts to take notice what is happening.  I have so much baggage with everything from training to getting the application form to the interview.  One particular nasty surprise for those who pass the interview stage and get the position is that they have t sit a test maths and English.  This was a shock to me.  Especially I had it at the start before interview stage.  Did not pass test can not have interview.  Hang on got more qualifications got Maths and English.  Hang on got my CV does not that count.  Laughing staff till you have that experience well it is still hurting.  Something wrong here is there not.
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