26 June 2019 | Marino Donati
The government is to launch a consultation on proposals to give employees new rights to request workplace modifications on health grounds.
The plans are outlined in a raft of measures announced to tackle barriers faced by disabled people in the workplace, at home and in the community. A new cross-government disability team will also be instigated.
The government said that around a fifth of the working age population is living with a disability. The measures announced include greater workplace support, higher accessibility standards for new housing, and an overhaul of statutory sick pay.
A consultation on new measures to help employers better support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in work will be published next month.
These include making statutory sick pay more flexible to encourage a phased return to work, as well as ensuring that it covers the lowest-paid workers.
The government will also consult on offering small and medium-sized employers a conditional rebate to support those who manage staff on sickness absence and help them get back to work.
Other proposals include new employee rights to request workplace modifications on health grounds, as well as new metrics to compare how well companies deliver for disabled customers in essential markets, such as energy, broadband and water.
The cross-government disability team will incorporate the Office for Disability Issues; it will sit alongside the Government Equalities Office and Race Disparity Unit in a new Equalities Hub.
The team will work closely with disabled people, disabled people's organisations and charities to develop a new approach to disability, with their views and experiences at the forefront of any new policy. More measures will be set out later this year.
Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May said the new measures aimed to break down barriers faced by disabled people, in employment, housing and elsewhere.
"We all have a crucial role - businesses, government and civil society - in working together to ensure that disabled people get the support they need, and go as far as their talents can take them."
Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, said:
"Making workplaces more flexible, improving market regulation and government coordination are positive steps in the right direction.
"We know that half of disabled people feel excluded from society, and are too often shut out of work. Life also costs more if you are disabled, and Scope research shows that these costs add up to on average £583 a month."