Reasonable adjustments: The “significant management knowledge gap”

Written by Caroline Roberts Tuesday 21 June 2022
Despite more desire to attract and retain disabled talent, businesses are still struggling to meet disabled people’s needs and create a disability-friendly workplace. Managers need to get better at understanding and implementing reasonable adjustments
A person in a wheelchair; two people talking in sign language; a person with cancer; a person with severe back pain; a person struggling with their mental health

Much of Charlotte Kiely’s working life has been disrupted by her bipolar disorder, a mental health condition characterised by extreme mood swings. “I’ve had a number of different jobs, but it’s often been hard to hold them down,” she says.

Her most recent negative experience was with a large public organisation. “They wanted to be inclusive and to understand my condition, but struggled to put the right things in place. When you’re in a manic phase, you have so many grandiose thoughts and overestimate what you can do, so you’re flitting from one thing to the next.

“You need a concrete plan to work to, but it wasn’t provided until I had a complete meltdown with the frustration of it. I only lasted nine months in that job as I could feel my bipolar getting worse. There was a huge sense of relief when I left.”

Happily, Charlotte has now found an employer who welcomes the bursts of creativity her condition brings. “My manager is really great. Rather than seeing my traits as a negative, they see them as a positive and recognise there’s a lot of great qualities I can bring to the team.”

Charlotte is not alone in her struggles. According to disability charity Scope, 1 in 5 working age adults are disabled. Statistically, that’s at least one person in your team.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that only half of working-age disabled people are in employment, compared to around 80% of non-disabled people. Disabled people are also less likely to progress in their careers and are lower paid, with the average pay gap across all types of disability lying at 12.2% in 2018.

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