Labour's legacy of discrimination legislation

"With more disabled Labour MPs in parliament, there will be more insight and better knowledge into the problems disabled people face in the world of work and hopefully better legislation can be drafted to ensure disabled people can compete in a  21st century workforce. "

The Labour party is traditionally the party of equality in this country. With achievements like the equality act 2010 and the disability discrimination act, the party can be justly proud of its work to provide equality for disabled people in society.  However since these acts were passed the number of disabled people in work compared to none disable people remains significantly lower. According to the Labour Force survey conducted in 2012, just 46.3% of disabled people were in work compared to 76.4% of none disabled people. This represents around two million people. Disabled people are also more likely to face discrimination if they are in the work place 19% of disabled people experienced unfair treatment compared to just 13% of none disabled people.

I want to briefly tell you my story. After graduating from University in 2013 I was unemployed for almost a year. Around six months into this, I obtained a job working for a well-known pub chain that specialises in value for money means and cheap beers. I have dyspraxia which means I can be quite clumsy and indeed on occasions socially awkward.  During work shifts I occasionally bumped into colleagues working a busy shift. I immediately apologised and had a word with the supervisor explaining my disability. Around a week later, I came into work one Saturday evening and was quickly pulled into the office by the pub manager and another manager. It was then explained to me that £40 had gone missing from the till the previous shift and the other colleague I was sharing the till with had been searched before he left but I had not. They then proceeded to question me about whether I had taken the money, which I repeatedly denied. They then brought up the subject of my disability and asked me whether my disability meant I lacked the numeracy skills with money. Bearing in mind that I was both a graduate, and had previously worked in retail I found these questions surprising. I stated that No I didn’t. They then finally presented me with the accusation that I had told them about my disability on the application form. This was indeed true, on this occasion. When I had submitted an application I didn’t tick the button that said did you have a disability but this was because when I submitted the same application previously and ticked the button I never received an interview. Subsequently to this, they used the fact that I had not told them of my disability to fail my probation. Despite the law saying I didn’t have to declare it, I was essentially sacked due to the fact I had a disability.

The number of MPs who are BME,  LGBT and Women MPs has been steadily improving with each parliament however the number of disabled MPs elected has been steadily decreasing and more must be done to improve the level of representation disabled people have when they make up roughly 5% of all MPs but equate to about 20% of society. Without adequate representation of disabled people, legislation will struggle to make a real change for disabled people out and struggling to find work as representatives will struggle to have the real insight into what is preventing disabled people from finding work. Indeed, the Parliamentary Labour Party’s recent decision to abstain on the proposal to cut benefits from Disabled people shows the real lack of insight Labour MPs have into the problems disabled people face. With more disabled Labour MPs in parliament, there will be more insight and better knowledge into the problems disabled people face in the world of work and hopefully better legislation can be drafted to ensure disabled people can compete in a  21st century workforce.

The process of applying for work can be an extremely difficult process for disabled people applying for work. The Labour Party is a two ticks employer. This means that the party is dedicated to ensuring that all disabled applicants who apply and declare their disability, receive an interview if they meet the minimum criteria for the role. When I recently tried to apply for a role I found that the area on the website reserved for disabled people to apply under this scheme failed not work. Essentially the party needs to ensure that disabled people are able to access the process in place to them apply and get into work.

Tim Sykes is a Young Fabians member. Follow him on Twitter at @timsykes3






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