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Disabled people more likely to experience bullying and harassment at work

28 November 2008

Disabled people and those with long term ill-health are facing higher levels of hostile and negative treatment in the workplace according to new research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission this week.

The research team, led by Professor Ralph Fevre, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, carried out a representative survey of nearly 4000 workers. The British Workplace Behaviour Survey 2008 found employees with a disability or long-term illness were significantly more likely to report negative experiences at work

As the Government moves to introduce welfare reforms designed to enable more disabled people to enter work, the Commission hopes the issues raised in the report will be addressed.

Professor Fevre said: "This is important research which we hope will impact on welfare reform and the new equality bill. The Commission’s involvement is confirmation of the significance of the work we are doing and the way in which Cardiff's social scientific expertise is valued by policy-makers."

The Survey found that the experiences of those questioned for the research range from low expectations of workers, bullying and humiliation to, in some cases, physical violence:

• 25% of people with a disability or long-term illness said someone was continually checking up on them and their work when it was not necessary compared to 19.4% of people without a disability or long-term illness.

• 19.3% of people with a disability or long-term illness said they were pressured by someone else to work below their level of competence compared to 13.5% of people without a disability or long-term illness.

• 22.5% of people with a disability or long-term illness said they had been the subject to persistent unfair criticism of their work and performance compared to 13.4% of people without a disability or long-term illness.

• 13.4% of people with a disability or long-term illness said they had been humiliated or ridiculed in connection with their work compared to 8.7% for people without a disability or long-term illness.

• 11.6% of people with a disability or long-term illness said they had experienced actual physical violence at work compared to 5.5% of people without a disability or long-term illness.

• 8.8% of people with a disability or long-term illness said they sustained an injury in some way as a result of violence or aggression at work compared to 4.7% of people without a disability or long-term illness.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, further funding came from the Commission for Racial Equality, Acas and the Runnymede Trust, with the Department for Trade and Industry also supporting the project.

Ahead of the upcoming equality bill, the Commission will now ask whether existing equality laws provide clear enough protection to disabled individuals at risk of bullying and harassment at work, for example, in relation to ill-treatment by clients or customers.

Nicola Brewer, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said, "In these difficult economic times we must do all we can to help as many people as possible to stay in work. If disabled people and those with long-term ill health are more likely to experience hostile and negative treatment at work, we risk losing both their talent and their economic contribution.

"Disabled people and those with long term ill-health should be supported to get into, or back into, work, but they’ll only stay in work if they are treated with dignity and respect."

Members of the Cardiff-led research team included Trevor Jones, Dr Amanda Robinson and Dr Martyn Rogers from the School of Social Sciences and Professor Duncan Lewis, University of Glamorgan.

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