Lawrence Stephens

We are a *knowledge business

Jo Mackie comments on the Government’s plans to push disabled workers into employment in HR Magazine

January 2024

Jo Mackie, Director and Head of Employment, comments on the Government’s plans to push disabled workers into employment to address the UK’s skills gaps.

Jo’s comments were published in HR Magazine 08 September 2023, and were republished in HR Magazine 16 January 2024.

“We must remember that there are only three definite definitions of ‘disability’ in law: Cancer, HIV and MS. Other alleged disabilities are decided by an Employment Tribunal, based on medical evidence. It is unlikely that the government is suggesting putting people with cancer into workplace settings while they are unwell and undergoing treatment. They are more likely targeting those with more minor conditions or long-term mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which account for a significant percentage of absentees.

“The government cannot legally ‘force’ genuinely disabled people into work that they cannot perform. That would be disability discrimination, and prima facie unlawful.

“The skills gap will be closed with investment in training and education, not by putting unskilled or unqualified people into roles they are not suitable for.

“Clearly, the suggestion of forcing people into work does not take account of complex disabilities or health problems – and will increase the burden on employers, not decrease it. 

“Taking people into the workplace who are unwell and not able to perform at their best puts a business at great risk. It can make a business liable for disability discrimination claims, costing time and money investing in reasonable adjustments and OH reviews. It also puts the employer on a collision course with health and safety law, as well as the medical professionals who support people with disabilities.”