United Kingdom - Article 27

Article 27

Measures to support employers
Measures to support workers with disabilities
Discrimination
Employment on the open labour market
Employment in the supported / sheltered sector
Employment in the public sector
Employment of blind and partially sighted women
Self-employment
Vocational rehabilitation and training
Incentive measures to employ workers with disabilities
Legal obligation to employ workers with disabilities
Vocational counselling
Main occupations performed by workers with a visual impairment
Looking for a job
Legal recognition of disabled worker status
Trade unions and workers with disabilities
 

Measures to support employers

Access to Work is a public scheme that supports both employers and employees in the UK. This scheme operates when adaptation to premises or specific equipment are needed. It is equally open to disabled workers who are currently employed, unemployed and about to start a new job, and self-employed. It is implemented in both the private and public sectors.
An Access to Work Adviser works with the employer, the disabled worker and sometimes with a specialist organisation, to determine which support package is appropriate and the amount of the grant. Based on this agreement, it is the responsibility of the employer (or the self-employed disabled person) to arrange the agreed support and purchase the necessary equipment. The employer can then claim repayment of the approved costs from Access to Work (up to 80%).
The scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions but has recently been contracted out on a regional basis. Problems have been reported with this contracting because the amount of funding might be insufficient to enable the contractors to subcontract. The lack of adequate disability awareness has also been reported as a major problem.

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Measures to support workers with disabilities

Access to Work is a public scheme that supports both employers and employees in the UK. This scheme operates when adaptation to premises or specific equipment are needed. It is equally open to disabled workers who currently employed, are unemployed and about to start a new job, and self-employed disabled workers. Access to Work also supports transport fares to work for the disabled worker (up to 100%).

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Discrimination

The 2005 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) replaces an earlier text dating from 1995. It is the main legislation addressing discrimination in the UK. The Act covers discrimination in employment; education; access to goods, facilities and services, including larger private clubs and transport services; buying or renting land or property, including making it easier for disabled people to rent property and for tenants to make disability-related adaptations; functions of public bodies, for example issuing of licences. Discrimination against disabled people is outlawed in all these areas and in terms of employment this includes recruitment and selection procedures. A complaint can be lodged with an employment tribunal within three months of an unfair treatment.
However, the Act is enabling and if there is a disagreement the court of justice or the employment tribunal may interpret and set precedents against which future judgments will be made. This applies, for instance, to the area known as reasonable adjustment which concerns adaptation and adjustment measures of the workplace for the disabled worker. If the adjustment is deemed to be prohibitively expensive or in other ways unreasonable, the courts or Employment Tribunals would almost certainly judge it to be so.

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Employment on the open labour market

Employment on the open labour market is part of the policy of the Government in Britain but results concerning the visually impaired public have been somewhat disappointing. This is not to say that there are no blind people working on the open market but that the nature of their jobs has extended and changed over the years. However, this is caused by socioeconomic trends which have very little to do with visual disability itself.

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Employment in the supported / sheltered sector

In the UK, a publicly owned company called Remploy employs nearly 20,000 disabled people but in the past it did not employ visually impaired people. Supported sheltered employment is provided for visually impaired people through a system of small factories. The Government pays a grant into these for everybody qualifying and the local authorities top this up.

However, the deficits can be quite high and local authorities are becoming reluctant to pay. The factories (and indeed Remploy) need contracts and the blind in the UK are trying to persuade the Government to invoke Article 19 of the EU Public Procurement Directive so that disability becomes a factor in awarding them.

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Employment in the public sector

Access to Work is a public scheme that supports both employers and employees in the UK. This scheme operates when adaptation to premises or specific equipment are needed. It is equally open to disabled workers who are currently employed, unemployed and about to start a new job, and self-employed. It is implemented in both the private and public sectors.
An Access to Work Adviser works with the employer, the disabled worker and sometimes with a specialist organisation, to determine which support package is appropriate and the amount of the grant. Based on this agreement, it is the responsibility of the employer (or the self-employed disabled person) to arrange the agreed support and purchase the necessary equipment. The employer can then claim repayment of the approved costs from Access to Work (up to 80%).

In practice, the record of visually impaired people employed in the public sector has been described as abysmal.

Recent political developments in the UK included proposals to exclude the public sector from the Access to Work scheme, however the latest indications are that this might not come about.

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Employment of blind and partially sighted women.

Discrimination against women is illegal in the UK but this does not mean that there is no gender pay gap. Blind and partially-sighted women have no greater problem in securing work than all visually impaired people, which is to say they have considerable problems.

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Self Employment

There are visually impaired people in self-employment in the UK but the percentage of in the population is now less than 10% and this is the same with blind people. An additional problem for blind people is the paperwork component. This would discourage most of them to create their own job unless this was done by somebody else.

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Vocational rehabilitation and training

Vocational rehabilitation and training is generally available in the UK but the Government's policy is to mainstream it. This is laudable but inclusivity can mean splendid isolation for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the mainstream vocational services do not really cater for disabled people. Isolating people by sending them to random locations to undergo specific rehabilitation and training is not an adequate answer. The blind of the UK would benefit from training opportunities close to where they live, i.e. within mainstream structures.

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Incentive measures to employ workers with disabilities.

Access to Work is a public scheme that supports both employers and employees in the UK. This scheme operates when adaptation to premises or specific equipment are needed. It is equally open to disabled workers who are currently employed, unemployed and about to start a new job, and self-employed. It is implemented in both the private and public sectors. It is the only incentive to employ workers with disability in the UK.

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Legal obligation to employ workers with disabilities

There is no legal obligation to employ disabled people in the UK. 

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Vocational counselling.

Vocational counselling is possible through various charity organisations in the UK. There are also a number of Government schemes to encourage and support unemployed disabled people to move from welfare to employment.

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Main occupations performed by workers with a visual impairment.

There is no main occupation as such but in the modern world computer skills are more and more important. Short of saying that the main occupation is sitting at home, this question has no answer.

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Looking for a job

In the UK, disabled job seekers receive assistance through the Department for Work and Pensions. Disability Employment Advisors are available to guide the disabled job seeker. Vocational counselling is also possible through various charity organisations. There are a number of Government schemes to encourage and support unemployed disabled people to move from welfare to employment.

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Legal recognition of disabled worker status

The legal recognition of the status of disabled workers does not exist in its own right in the UK.

However, a working definition is incorporated in the anti-discrimination legislation. The Disability Register was abolished in 1995 but the Register of Blind and Partially-sighted people still exists. It has been argued that the register was not exhaustive and poorly updated.

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Trade unions and workers with disabilities.

Visually impaired people in the UK belong to all manner of Trade Unions although that tends to be restricted to those who are employed. Many British unions now have Disability Advisory Committees and will take up cases on behalf of their members. Insofar as the Sheltered and supported employment sector is concerned, many visually impaired people belong to the National League of the Blind and Disabled. This started in 1899 as the National League of the Blind, affiliated to the Trades Union Congress in 1902 and to the Labour Party in 1909. It became the National League of the Blind and Disabled because the factories merged with the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation in 2000. It then became Community in 2006 and the current Vice-President is blind. This person will become the Acting President on 1st January 2009.

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