Chronically ill and disabled employees endure 'regular discrimination' at work

A new report has revealed the discrimination experienced by chronically ill and disabled people – who comprise 1 in 4 of the UK workforce.

Around one in four people of working age are chronically ill or disabled, more than a third (38%) of these people say their health needs were not taken seriously at interview stage.

One candidate said: ‘I was made to feel like a waste of time and energy, being told a lot of times “We’re taking a chance on you”, which I don’t feel would have been said to someone who wasn’t ill.’

Released by UK charity Astriid, the report – Employment and Long-Term Illness: The Invisible Talent Pool – pulls together research and advice from UK-wide organisations.

Candidates reported that when it came to applying for a new role, many were concerned about disclosing their long-term illness due to fear of discrimination.

The report also highlights that traditional 9-to-5, 35+ hour roles are unsuitable for most job seekers with long-term health concerns. However, only 6% of vacancies in flexible roles that would suit this workforce offer a salary that sufficiently covers the cost of living.

Despite the 2010 Equality Act, the paper identifies a nervousness from those with an illness or disability to ask for reasonable adjustments at work. More than a third fear being treated differently and more than a quarter don’t want to approach their employer.

In response to the report, Astriid, which was founded by the late David Shutts OBE in 2018 after a cancer diagnosis left him feeling ignored and ‘on the scrap heap’, has launched the Astriid Challenge.

The month-long virtual event during July, which has already attracted 400 global participants, aims to raise awareness and bring much-needed monies into the charity.

It also hopes to show the plight of people suffering with long-term health conditions who have been ‘living in isolation’ long before the pandemic began.

Steve Shutts, CEO of the charity and David’s brother, explains: ‘As the majority of the population countdown to freedom, many of those with chronic health conditions, or their carers, will continue to experience isolation, restrictions and limitations on their daily life.’

Steve says any funds raised in the challenge will go towards several projects, including a training and re-skilling programme, back-to-work support, and a research study to attract more prospective employers and live job roles.

‘Covid has been a great catalyst for change in many workplaces – flexible and hybrid working patterns and more of a focus on health and wellbeing are becoming widely accepted,’ adds Steve.

‘We truly hope this inclusive outlook extends to the invisible talent pool – those who have plenty to give but are treated differently or overlooked because of gaps on their CV or ill-health.’

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