Tag: Sports Direct

If even the DWP isn’t Disability Confident, how will a million disabled people get jobs? – Bernadette Meaden

Nobody would expect a person who suffers blackouts to drive a bus or bin waggon once they had thought through the potentially devastating consequences. But political, cultural, psychological and financial coercion is being used to force sick and disabled people to work – the government continues to cut welfare, which was calculated originally to cover only the costs of meeting basic needs.

Cruel sanctions and strict, inflexible, often unreasonable behavioural conditions are being imposed on lifeline benefit receipt, adversely affecting some of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens; unemployed and disabled people are being stigmatised by the government and the media – all of this is done with an utterly callous disregard of a person’s capacity to work, and importantly, the availabilty of appropriate and suitable employment opportunities, and this can often have tragic consequences.

Modern employment practices, which have an increasingly strong focus on attendance micromanagement, present yet another barrier for disabled people who want to work.

The following is taken from an excellent article which was posted on Bernadette Meaden’s blog, on January 16, 2016.

The numbers of disabled people in ‘absolute poverty’ (unable to meet their basic needs) has risen steeply following welfare reforms. Yet in his most recent party conference speech Iain Duncan Smith said to disabled people, “We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”

The recent case  of a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employee sacked for taking time off for illness illustrates a truth that the government does not acknowledge. Modern employment practices often appear to be incompatible with its aim of getting sick and disabled people off disability benefits and into work.

In this particular case it was reported that after working at the DWP for thirty four years, Ms Powell, who has a disability, fell foul of its sickness absence procedure, whereby formal action is taken against employees after eight days absence, or four spells of absence within a 12-month period.

‘Health problems meant that Ms Powell was frequently off sick. As some of her absences were related to a disability, her trigger point was adjusted from the usual eight to 12 days. However, Ms Powell later went over her allotted 12 days’ absence by a few days, and she was dismissed.’

A year earlier, a DWP whistleblower had revealed :

“Attendance management continues to get more draconian and sackings have become a regular occurrence: a recent guideline instructed managers to consider dismissal for staff off work for longer than 28 days regardless of the reason.”

So despite its own Disability Confident campaign, which calls on employers to “help improve employment opportunities for disabled people and retain disabled people and those with long term health conditions in your business”, the DWP itself seems unable to provide employment for people who may have long or frequent spells of illness. This would suggest that if you have, say, a long term fluctuating health condition, or a disability that requires frequent hospital appointments, you will find it very difficult to keep a job at the DWP.

Of course the DWP is not alone in this. We know that in some workplaces the pressure to attend even when very ill is overwhelming. At the Sports Direct warehouse, for instance, it was reported that over a two year period, 76 calls for an ambulance had been made, with 36 cases classed as ‘life-threatening’ including strokes, convulsions and breathing problems. One woman gave birth in the toilets, and employees said they were too frightened to take time off when they were ill, in case they lost their job. The employment agency that supplied staff to the warehouse had a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy, where a strike could include being off sick, or taking ‘excessive or long toilet breaks’. Very few people with a long term health condition would find it possible to keep their job in these circumstances. 

The reality is that in a fiercely competitive economy and austerity-driven government departments, there is very little room for anyone who has a long term health problem. Perhaps somebody in the government should do a little experiment. Try applying for jobs and declaring a long-term illness or disability which may require regular absences. See how easy it is to get a job.

You can read the rest of Bernadette’s excellent article here.

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The new Work and Health Programme: the government plan social experiments to “nudge” sick and disabled people into work