international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Government Publishes National Disability Strategy

The UK government’s National Disability Strategy, which follows up on a commitment made in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto, covers “making the world of work more inclusive and accessible”. Although the strategy reflects the experiences of disabled people across the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have implemented, or will implement, their own disability strategy.

The UK government makes a number of employment-related commitments, including:

  • Access to Work: In addition to making the Access to Work scheme a digital service, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will create an Access to Work Adjustment Passport which will provide disabled people with greater flexibility and smooth transitions between job roles, help build employer understanding of disability and adjustments, and remove the need for repeated disability assessments.
  • Online advice hub: Acas (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have developed a new advice hub for employers and disabled people in England, Scotland and Wales, which includes advice on discrimination, reasonable adjustments, flexible working, mental health issues and improving equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • Disability workforce reporting: In 2021, the UK Cabinet Office will consult on voluntary and mandatory workforce reporting on disability for employers and will publish a set of next steps. The focus of the consultation appears to be on recording information about disabled people in the workforce, rather than the pay received by disabled people, and will include how employers can better understand the disability profile of their business, whether a standard question could be asked of all employees and how information can be collected and stored.
  • Flexible working as a default: Before the end of the year, BEIS will launch a consultation on making flexible working the default across Great Britain, unless employers have good reason not to allow it.
  • Unpaid carers’ leave: By the end of 2021, BEIS will set out next steps in progressing the government’s commitment to introduce unpaid carers’ leave of up to one week across Great Britain, to help unpaid carers balance their caring responsibilities with paid employment.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel 

Through the strategy, the UK government hopes to improve access to employment for disabled people and to help and encourage employers to improve equality, diversity and inclusion for disabled people in their workplaces. A number of the employment-related commitments are, however, to consult and consider rather than mandatory steps, so it may be some time before many material changes are required in the workplace.