Have a Legal Problem? How About Some Free Advice?

 

Evenbreak is delighted to have recently formed a relationship with Disability Law Service (DLS), a charity that has been providing free legal advice to Disabled People since 1975.

So, if you think that you have been discriminated against at a job interview or in your employment, or if your employer is refusing to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to work effectively, then DLS may well be able to help you out, free of charge.  For some cases, this can even include representation at an employment tribunal.

What’s more, DLS don’t only assist with employment law.  If you are entitled to a community care package and are having difficulties or if you are facing challenges with welfare benefits, DLS have expert lawyers available to help you.

If you would like to get up to speed with the legal basics yourself then why not check out the free DLS factsheets covering employment law, community care and welfare benefits which can be found at www.dls.org.uk.

But please don’t feel that you have to do so, the lawyers at DLS are ready and willing to help you today!

For Employment law (including discrimination in the workplace) and Community Care law you can contact DLS:

For Welfare Benefits you can contact DLS:

Postal enquiries can be sent to Disability Law Service, The Foundry, 17 Oval Way, London, SE11 5RR.

Disability Law Service is committed to fighting injustice for disabled people.  If you have been treated unfairly, please do not hesitate – contact them now.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

Guest blog: Bias Against Disabled Candidates

Today a guest blog from Mike Duxbury with some remarkable findings from research about bias against disabled candidates:

The following report was instigated 5 years ago having discussed with a number of people both from Job Centre Plus, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Action for Blind People and the RNIB.

Having seen some statistics in 2011 where it reveals around 85% of blind people being unemployed and 65% of those being unemployable. Whilst I am very aware that a lot of sight loss happens later in life there are in excess of 400,000 people who are totally blind of a working age.

The reason for looking at blindness is because this is one of the areas where companies perceive that more is required to be changed or adapted within the work place.

In the past expensive and complex assistive technology was needed to be implemented for a lot of blind people in order to be competitive within the workplace and this has led to many employers perceiving this to be complex and costly in order to adapt their environments to accommodate some of the sensory people.

In 2016 with the advancement in speech technology, accessible telecommunications, low cost screen readers and scanning tools within mobiles it has meant that very little needs to be changed to employ sensory impaired people.

There appears to be an issue with the following 3 areas-:

1)   There is still a high level of fear within the U.K. employment market around the employing of sensory impaired people, as many do not understand the raft of technology that now allows this segment of people to be equal and compatible to anybody else.

2)   A lack of education around the understanding of what is needed to employ a sensory impaired person, as mentioned above 20 years ago a high level of cost was needed however today the same technology can be used for sensory impaired and able bodied persons as many devices including tablets have differing levels of accessibility built in at no extra cost

3)   Many managers who are sifting through applications for new roles within organisations are still shying away from interviewing many sensory impaired people and this appears to be a fear of saying and doing the wrong thing and causing embarrassment and offence but I feel as a blind person myself this is completely the opposite to what is needed. Many managers will only be inclusive and fulfill the equal opportunities policies if they are willing to be open minded, open to discussion and open to having their own views challenged around their knowledge of sensory impairment.

I feel that certainly on this third point this is where the major stumbling block appears to be as if you can’t get past the application stage you will never get to the employment stage.

Therefore over the last 5 years we have carried out over 500 applications to differing companies with some startling outcomes where we have both included the applicant’s disability and where this has been completely left out.

I have broken the 513 applications down as follows: –

In the field where no disability has been mentioned we have done around 247 applications of which interviews and further steps i.e. being passed to companies from agencies, getting one or more interviews is around 197 positives results.

Once they identified that there was a disability only 23 went on to be looked at in any further light.

With regards to the 266 where disability was mentioned in all the applications, there were only 7 positive results, 7 interviews, next steps and in one incident all criteria was passed and achieved, however the outcome was that their systems would not be compatible, even without investigating as it was felt a lot of work/expense would be required.

All applications were sent to companies that had an “equal opportunities policy” but I think many companies have this in place purely to meet U.K. regulations and to be viewed of as having corporate social responsibility.

Many of the companies that have been involved with the above process have thrown up some significant surprises due to their global claims around good personnel and employee understanding but I am not sure whether many of these applications ever get beyond individuals who’s knowledge of disability especially sensory impairments and the ease of accommodating and employing this segment of people has less challenges and in many cases none that they would expect or have an understanding of.

I am not going to name any companies as this is not an exercise to disgrace or champion any individual companies, but merely a document to outline the problems we still face in 2016 and how disability and employment for what ever reason are failing each other and many employers are losing out on some significant skill bases.

One of the other significant challenges is that many organisations that represent certain disabled groups are also failing to employ those whom they represent in order to bring true understanding and an outward appearance to others leaving many companies wondering the reasons around the non-employment of disabled people within certain organisations/ charity groups.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

Book Review: Very Late Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome

I have a great interest in Autism, for two main reasons. Many of our talented candidates at Evenbreak are on the Autistic Spectrum and I am keen to learn as much as I can to help promote them to employers. And also my daughter is a teacher and runs a base for children on the spectrum. However, the children that she teaches are lucky enough to have received an early diagnosis so that they can be taught using teaching methods which are more appropriate for them (often quite different from “neuro-typical” children).

My view has been that Autism is more a different way of thinking about and seeing the world, rather than an impairment. It becomes disabling (using the social model) when society can’t adapt easily to people who think differently. And often “differently” is confused with “inferior”. A number of employers have asked me to specifically target candidates on the Autism spectrum for some jobs, so clearly in some circumstances being Autistic is a positive advantage.

But what happens if your Autism isn’t diagnosed until you are well into adulthood? This happened to Philip Wylie, who wasn’t officially diagnosed until the age of 52. He found this “a painful and traumatic experience”, although in some ways it was also a relief, and answered many questions, making more sense of his life. One of the coping strategies he used was to research Autism, and particularly the experiences of people like him, who had received their diagnosis late in life. I’m grateful that he chose this as one of his strategies, because it resulted in a book, “Very Late Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome” which makes fascinating and enlightening reading.

For many years, Autism was seen as something which needed “curing” – as if it were some kind of disease. Also, it wasn’t recognised as a condition until relatively recently, so there are many adults who wouldn’t have been diagnosed at school or in their childhood. In his introduction Philip says, “Although our strengths are many and we have a lot to offer society, the world at large has a long way to go in accepting and understanding neurodiversity.” (p. 27)

One of the many challenges of living in a world which is suspicious of difference is to try to appear “normal” – in other words, pretend to be like and behave like the people around you. Many autistic adults do this for decades before finally understanding themselves. Wylie states “pretending to be someone else damages our self-esteem and mental health because we feel unable to honour and express ourselves truthfully.” (p. 33)

The book talks a lot about the dangers of late diagnosis. People respond differently, some feeling a sense of relief that there is an explanation for why they had always felt different from others, and some can be traumatised, leading to various forms of mental ill health. Even those who feel a sense of relief can feel cheated out of all the years when they could and should have known. The discrimination faced by autistic people in the workplace is also addressed. As Wylie states, “what is the advantage of being ‘gifted’ if we are unable to apply these gifts and most people are not even aware of their existence?” (p. 43)

One of the benefits of diagnosis is that it “may bring awareness of the ‘social model’  of disability, which states that an adverse environment is a major cause of mental ill-health among autistic people. Again, this knowledge enables us to forgive ourselves, knowing that any secondary mental disorders (such as anxiety or depression) are caused primarily by external influences.” (p.94)

One concern expressed by Wylie is that many charities and social enterprises which are set up to help and support people on the spectrum do not employ autistic people themselves – what kind of message does that send out? As he points out, “Employers benefit massively by treating autistic people as healthy human beings and adjusting the work environment to enable us to be fully productive.” (p. 124).

Enlightened employers understand that “Typical positive traits of autistic people are the ability to focus on a single task for a long time, above-average intelligence, adept systemisation skills, goal orientation, ability to see ‘the wood for the trees’, abstract thinking ability and integrity.” (p.124)

The book gives useful advice to employers considering employing autistic people, and also to autistic people looking for work. There is also a useful “self-diagnosis” tool to test how many “typical” autistic traits someone might have.

I found this book extremely interesting, and a great mixture of research and personal experience – not just the author’s, but also many of the people he has spoken to whilst conducting his research. I would recommend this book highly to any employer, to any adult who thinks they may be autistic, and to any adult who is supporting someone who may be autistic.

It’s a fascinating read – find it here.

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To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

To make a donation to Evenbreak go here – https://localgiving.com/charity/evenbreak

People who stammer face “routine discrimination” at work

People who stammer are almost certain to face discrimination in the workplace and the jobs market, new research suggests.

The study by Dr Clare Butler, of Newcastle University Business School, found that every one of the 36 men who were interviewed experienced “routine discrimination” at the hands of employers.

Some of the men had been rejected at interviews because they stammered, while others could only find jobs where they were over-qualified.

Norbert Lieckfeldt, chief executive of the user-led British Stammering Association (BSA), said the results were “not a surprise”, because discrimination and bullying of people who stammer remained socially acceptable.

A key problem, he said, was that human resources departments often did not realise that stammering was covered by the Equality Act, even though a reasonable adjustment for someone who stammers was as simple as “good communication, speaking and listening, and good manners”, and that “if you get it right, it helps everyone”.

He said that awareness of stammering was at the same level that dyslexia was at 20 years ago, although it was now “going in the right direction”.

Lieckfeldt said it was often difficult to “own up to something that has a stigma attached, like stammering”, unless the employer has made it easy for employees who stammer to talk about their impairment.

The study, published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, found that two-thirds of those who did secure employment believed they were appointed because no-one else wanted the jobs, which were often “lonely or repetitive”.

Dr Butler said: “Many participants were told not only of their mismatch for the specifics of the job or the likelihood of a detrimental impact on customers, but also of the possible negative impact on team dynamics if they were appointed.” 

One man who applied for an administrative post was told by his interviewer to “go and look for something more suitable”, such as gardening, where he would be on his own.

But despite the frequent prejudice, none of those interviewed said they had challenged their potential or current employer.

Dr Butler said: “This is in contrast to the movement for those with other impairments, such as dyslexia, where employees now expect, and employers are expected to make, adjustments to facilitate full access at work.” 

One civil servant was told by his manager to stay away from crucial meetings because his stammer “upset the flow of the meeting”.

Dr Butler said that the growth in employment in services and retail, and the fall in manufacturing and other practical jobs had made it harder for people who stammer to find work.

But many interviewees believed that having a stammer had made them better listeners, while Dr Butler said that employers tended to be supportive if an employee had an “increased level of skill in an area where that skill was scarce or speech was not considered integral to the job requirements.”.

Lieckfeldt said that BSA carried out its own survey of 200 adults last year, with two-thirds saying that understanding of stammering at work would make them feel happier in the workplace.

Almost half said they had not put themselves forward for promotion because of their stammer, while two-thirds said they had held back from sharing good ideas.

BSA has set up the Employers Stammering Network, which aims to provide employers with information, support and advice on recruiting and supporting people who stammer. with members including DHL, Ernst and Young, Accenture, First Group, HSBC, Ladbrokes and Lloyds.

Lieckfeldt said: “Every day we get people saying ‘this happened to me,’ or ‘I can’t face the interview,’ so it is going to be a long, long haul I should imagine.”

 

(News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com)

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

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What to do if you Face Discrimination at Work

It’s a sad fact that thousands of disabled people are discriminated against in the workplace every year. In the working world, discrimination can come in a range of shapes and sizes – whether because of bullying or harassment at work or due to employer procedures that don’t offer the same opportunities to everyone.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against at work, it’s essential to know where you stand. Here’s what you should do.

1 – Don’t do nothing

If discrimination arises, the very worst thing you can do is nothing at all. Even in the unlikely event that your employer isn’t found to be discriminating against you, it’s important to raise the issues you have for your peace of mind.

Don’t suffer in silence – talk to workmates, friends and family and let them know what you’re going through. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

2 – Complain informally

The best way to let your employer know about your circumstances is to speak to someone at your company about what you’re going through. Let your line manager know about your issues and provide written confirmation of the complaints you’ve brought about and what happened during the meeting. Many people find that issues at work can be easily eradicated with a productive informal meeting.

Ensure that the person you speak to isn’t directly involved in the discrimination or the meeting may become personal and less productive.

However, because discrimination is such a serious issue, some employers prefer a more formal meeting from the outset to ensure that the problem is addressed properly.

3 – Complain formally

If your informal meeting doesn’t resolve your problems, you should bring your discrimination case to your company formally in an Employment Tribunal. Write a dated letter stating your grievance to your company’s HR or personnel department and use as much detail as possible.

You can enlist the help of your trade union to draft a letter and act alongside you during the process. You’ll then have a meeting with representatives where you can state your problems in person and detail how you’d like the matter to be resolved.

After this process, your work will let you know how they intend to deal with the problem and you can appeal against the decision, or go to an employment tribunal.

4 – Use an employment tribunal

If you’re still not happy with how your work have dealt with your discrimination case, you can take them to an employment tribunal. It does cost £1200 to make a discrimination claim to this independent tribunal, although you may be able to get financial help, depending on your circumstances. It’s also important to note that you’re not guaranteed to win.

You need to act quickly: complaints at employment tribunals must be made no later than 3 months after the initial complaint.

If you’re making a claim through an employment tribunal it’s important to seek the help of trusted legal professional who can represent you. It’s important to attend the tribunal hearing, otherwise it could be held without you. If you were found to have no good reason to miss the meeting you could be awarded less compensation.

Author – Howells Solicitors specialise in helping disabled people with discrimination cases. If you’ve faced harassment at work because of your disability, they can help you to fight bullying by representing you at an employment tribunal. Find out more by visiting Howells online today.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

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Guest blog: Excluding disabled customers

We usually focus on issues around employment in these blogs, but of course it is just as important that our organisations are accessible to disabled customers. Emily Buchanan looks at one particular industry below:

Music Concerts Are Not Access All Areas, New Study Finds

A new study has shown that disabled fans are being let down by the current ticket booking system for gigs in the UK and, indeed, the rest of the world. The study, which was conducted by Muscular Dystrophy campaign Trailblazers, was prompted when a number of young members raised concerns over their treatment at and prior to gigs and festivals.

“Young disabled music fans are being forced to wait hours on hold on premium rate telephone lines to buy accessible tickets to see their favourite artists,” write Trailblazers in their recap of the report, “[they] are isolated from friends and family at venues owing to a cap on companion seats, and are even missing out on concerts all together when venues delay accepting ‘proof of disability’”.

The study goes on to reveal that 77 per cent of young disabled people believe that booking tickets for a live music event puts them at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled friends, whilst one in two have missed out on tickets due to their disability – a case that was particularly prominent in smaller venues. Indeed, almost all of those who took part in the study (94 per cent) said that last minute ticketing websites do not cater for the needs of disabled people.

“When I went to see Sigur Rós at the Brixton Academy in March, the disabled loo was on the other side of the hall. If I needed to go to the toilet I had to ask the steward to plough through the crowd with me behind her,” said Zoe Hallam, from Bristol, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Over half of those who took part in the study echoed Zoe’s concerns, saying that inaccessible toilets were a major issue when going to see live music.

Another Trailblazer, James Lee from London, said that the need to prove his disability in order to secure accessible tickets was the real hindrance. “With events that are highly in demand, the submission of evidence which is required for booking accessible tickets has meant that I’ve missed out on live music events in the past.” Unfortunately, in the rush to get tickets, gig-goers have been known to exploit the limited disability ticket allowance by purchasing them when they do not have a disability. This is why many venues require a copy of the disabled person’s wheelchair insurance bill (or similar) to prove their condition. This timely process often means that tickets sell out before proof has been verified.

Live music fan Sulaiman Khantold Trailblazers that the “disabled cage,” is an issue for some people. Referring to the raised platform where space is allocated for wheelchair users, Khan asked why “[wheelchair users] are all supposed to sit together like one big happy family,” when they probably want to sit with their friends.

However, since the implementation of the Equality Act 2010 (a legislation that was initially passed in 1995), it has been illegal for service providers, including permanent and temporary venues, to treat disabled people less favourably than any other customers. With Seatwave and Ticketmaster both shirking the blame, it’s now over to individual venues to protect their accessibility credentials. Accordingly, Trailblazers and its members are calling for promoters, venues and ticketing companies to give disabled people the option to buy tickets online and to strive towards achieving “the highest standards possible” for their disabled patrons.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

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Welcome new discrimination legislation

On 28 February 2013, the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 became law.

The Act removes the last significant forms of discrimination in law from our society.This is a fantastic moment for people with mental health problems and a big step towards breaking down the prejudice surrounding mental health.

The new Act removes three legal barriers that contribute to a stigmatised view of mental health problems. It also sends a wider message that discrimination of people with mental health problems will not be tolerated.

The three provisions in the Act:

  • repeal section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, under which a Member of the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly automatically loses their seat if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months
  • amend the Juries Act 1974 to remove the blanket ban on “mentally disordered persons” undertaking jury service
  • amend the Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 which states that a person might cease to be a director of a public or private company “by reason of their mental health”

These three pieces of legislation fed into the discriminatory and outdated idea that people with mental health problems can never recover, and cannot be trusted to participate in social, political or economic life.

It’s hard to believe it took this long to give mental health the same legal status as physical health issues, but we are finally there. For more information see here.

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Disability discrimination “by association”

People can be discriminated against not because of their own disability, but through association with someone else who is disabled. An example of this is given below.

Atlas Ward Structures Ltd is an engineering firm that employs around 1,000 workers. Mr Bainbridge was employed by the company as a temporary welder along with 12 other co-workers. His wife suffered from medical problems, and the company later conceded at the tribunal hearing that she is disabled for the purposes of discrimination law.

In late September and October 2011 Mr Bainbridge was told that his contract would not be renewed. He was “shocked”, as he had not understood that there was any likelihood of redundancies, and had expected to be kept on when his contract came to be renewed. He asked why he had been selected, but did not receive an answer. He believed that the reason was his wife’s disability. He suggested that the amount of time that he had had to take off work, particularly at short notice, had “irritated” the manager, and this was why he had been selected. At no point was Mr Bainbridge provided with a reason as to why it had been him, rather than any of the 12 or so other welders in the same temporary position.

The employment tribunal stated that the crucial issue was causation: why had Mr Bainbridge’s contract been selected for non-renewal? On the evidence before the tribunal, Mr Bainbridge was well respected, experienced and qualified, and generally well regarded by the company. His attendance record, save for the periods of leave he had taken at short notice, was good – there was “no obvious or apparent reason” why he had been selected. Mr Bainbridge’s unchallenged evidence was that other employees who had been taken on after him had had their contracts renewed.

The tribunal accepted, “in the absence of any other plausible reason”, that Mr Bainbridge had been selected because he had, on occasion, taken leave at short notice, causing the company some inconvenience. The tribunal found that “faced with the need to select workers, [the company] had decided to remove this possible future source of inconvenience…by selecting Mr Bainbridge”.

The tribunal awarded Mr Bainbridge £10,500 in compensation and made further recommendations about his reinstatement.

 

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