According to a new TUC survey, almost a third of workers with disabilities have reported being unfairly treated at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

New research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled workers.

Disabled workers were likely to say that their disability or shielding status meant they were treated unfairly, and worse than other colleagues during the pandemic.

One in eight (13 per cent) said they were subjected to bullying and harassment, being ignored or excluded, singled out for criticism or being monitored excessively at work. The same number had concerns that their disability had affected how their performance would be assessed by their manager.

This unfavourable treatment also extended to impacting job opportunities. One in eight (twelve per cent) reported they were concerned their disability had affected their chances of a promotion in the future.

The research also found that workers with disabilities were often put at unnecessary risk. Over a fifth (21 per cent) of shielding workers worked outside of their home most of the time – despite their employers being able to use furlough to protect workers who could not complete their role from home.

In addition, one in eight workers with disabilities felt the need to conceal their disability or health condition due to fears of being unfairly treated (24 per cent) or losing their jobs (21 per cent).

Almost a third of employees (30 per cent) didn’t receive all the reasonable adjustments they asked for whilst one in six (16 per cent) had none implemented.

Workplaces were also found to be unsafe during the pandemic with a quarter of workers with disabilities (25 per cent) feeling unsafe at work due to the risk of catching or spreading the virus.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

Before the pandemic, disabled workers were already up against huge barriers getting into and staying in work. Covid-19 has made it even worse.

Employers are failing disabled workers.  Many disabled and shielding workers felt unsafe at work during the pandemic. And too many disabled workers told us their boss is breaking the law by not giving them the adjustments they need.

We saw with the last financial crisis that disabled people are all too often first in line for redundancy. As we recover from the pandemic, we can’t afford to reverse the vital progress that disabled people have made – in the workplace and in wider society.

As such, the TUC have called for mandatory disability pay gap reporting to be introduced, enforcement of reasonable adjustments and for the EHRC to update their statutory code of practice to include more examples of reasonable adjustments.

*YouGov, on behalf of the TUC, polled 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.