Disabled workers have experienced a deterioration in the workplace during the coalition government, a new study from the Public Interest Research Unit has found.

Included in the study were the private, public and voluntary sectors, with in-depth information collected from 137 disabled workers and 141 organisations.

Findings from the study have revealed that employer attitudes towards disabled workers have deteriorated in the last four years. Zero hour contracts are resulting in disabled workers receiving high levels of ill-treatment and unlawful discrimination has been on the rise, which includes harassment and unlawful dismissal. There has also been a reduction in organisational support for disabled workers and increased emphasis on discipline.

Rupert Harwood, author of the report, says:

“Our study suggests that disabled people have been the hardest hit in work as well as out of work. It appears that employer attitudes towards disabled workers have become more negative, unlawful discrimination could have increased, and there has been a shift from support and reasonable adjustments to discipline and the threat of dismissal”.

Since 2010, 24 major cuts have been made to equality and employment law protections, ensuing adverse impacts on disabled workers. The introduction of tribunal fees has resulted in disabled workers finding it difficult or even impossible to enforce the rights which remain in place.

Cuts to legal protection have had a knock on effect for individual and organisational performance, for example, making it easier to dismiss workers has reduced the incentive for some organisations to develop employee skills and knowledge through training and development.

In a majority of organisations there was a fall in the proportion of disabled workers. However, the sample surveyed and fall are both relatively small.