Conference highlights disability discrimination

Eight in ten disabled teachers have been discriminated against because of their disability in the course of their job, a conference organised by the NASUWT teachers’ union has heard.

Disabled teachers from across the country gathered in Birmingham on 20 June for the NASUWT’s annual Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference to discuss the challenges they face.

Delegates raised concerns about lack of support in the workplace, including a lack of access to reasonable adjustments and discriminatory attitudes from employers and colleagues in schools. An electronic poll of delegates found that:

  • 81 per cent had been discriminated against because of their disability while working as a teacher
  • two-thirds did not feel their employer took their disability seriously
  • 61 per cent had experienced bullying, harassment or victimisation because of their disability from senior school leaders
  • 55 per cent said they had experienced discrimination in relation to their pay and career progression in the last year;
  • the same percentage had experienced difficulties when requesting reasonable adjustments in the workplace;
  • only 21 per cent said their employer took active steps to ensure equality for disabled staff
  • only a quarter said their school or college had a disability leave policy that allowed attendance at medical appointments.

Pledging that the union would continue to challenge disability discrimination, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The experiences shared by disabled teachers… of the prejudice and bullying they have experienced during their careers are deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable.

“The professional knowledge, skills and creativity of disabled teachers are being wasted due to overt discrimination, which is blighting careers and denying pupils the benefit of their knowledge and experience. Teachers should not be forced to hide their disabilities or struggle without the reasonable adjustments they need to be able to do their jobs.”

Disability is one of a number of protected characteristics against which it is unlawful to discriminate under the Equality Act 2010 and employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled employees in doing their job, such as providing specific parking spaces or installing ramps.

However, a government report last year revealed that disabled people were significantly more likely to experience unfair treatment at work than non-disabled people, citing Office for National Statistics figures showing that 19 per cent of disabled people experienced unfair treatment at work compared to 13 per cent of non-disabled people

Palmers’ employment law team can provide expert advice and representation to schools and other employers on all discrimination-related issues while our HR package offers regularly updated sample policies for matters such as discrimination, to help maintain a productive working relationship between employers and employees and avoid disputes arising.

For more information, please visit our website or contact Lara Murray or Charlotte Woolven-Brown.