The overwhelming majority of staff with disabilities have expressed a desire to work remotely following the pandemic, at least a few days each week.

According to new research conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), nine in 10 disabled workers who worked remotely during the pandemic want to continue doing so at least some of the time.

The majority of this group felt that homeworking had impacted them positively, allowing them to improve their working lives.

Around two-thirds (63 per cent) stated working remotely had given them greater control over their working hours while just under half (47 per cent) said they had been able to change their work routines.

The respondents also expressed an uplift in their physical health, feeling less tired and fatigued (40 per cent) in addition to their mental health (26 per cent) due to the shift to homeworking.

Despite this, there were still areas identified in which employers could have better supported disabled staff working from home.

One in three disabled workers (34 per cent) who worked from home said that they lacked proper office equipment such as a desk, chair or computer.

Similarly, close to one in 10 (9 per cent) experienced difficulties taking part in online meetings because of their disability, impairment or health condition.

The report states employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for all disabled employees – both those working from a workplace and those working from home.

However, almost half of employers (45 per cent) asked to make reasonable adjustments for this group failed to do so in full.

As such, the TUC is advocating for key changes to support disabled workers receive the flexibility needed to stay in work, including:

  • Allowing this group to continue to work from home following the pandemic.
  • Unlocking the flexibility in all jobs with employers being made to consider the flexible working options that are available in a role, publish these in all job adverts and give successful applicants a day one right to take it up.
  • Making flexible working a genuine legal right from the first day in a job – with no limits on how many times this can be requested in a year.
  • Ensuring every disabled worker gets the reasonable adjustments they need to do their job. – They further urged the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to update their statutory Code of Practice on disabled people and employment, so it reflects the advances in home and flexible working during the pandemic.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady stated:

During the pandemic, many disabled people were able to work flexibly or from home for the first time – often after being previously told that it was not possible in their job. Even amid the grief and isolation of the pandemic, these changed working patterns improved the experience of many disabled people at work.

We can’t go back. Employers must offer all disabled people who can work from home the right to continue working from home, as a reasonable adjustment. And they must offer appropriate flexible working options as standard in all jobs – both as a reasonable adjustment for disabled workers, and as a right for every worker.

Ministers must change the law so that all jobs are advertised with flexible options clearly stated, and all workers have the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job.

*To gather these results, YouGov – on behalf of the TUC – conducted an online survey of 2,003 disabled workers or workers who have a health condition or impairment and who were in work at the start of the pandemic in February 2021.