Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

More action needed to tackle learning disability discrimination in the workplace

A shocking report out this week shows that people with learning disabilities are more likely than other groups to be subject to attacks and bullying, when they’re at work. It confirms that there is still a long way to go to end discrimination against people with learning disabilities, especially in the workplace.

The research, ‘The Ill-treatment of Disabled Employees in British Workplaces’, found that 21.2% of employees with a learning disability or mental health condition said they were victims of physical violence, 44.2% said they had been insulted and 56.9% said they had been shouted at.

Overall, among all of those in the research with a disability – physical or learning – mental health condition or long-term illness, 10.5% said they had suffered physical violence at work, compared with 4.5% of people without disabilities or long-term illness.

Meanwhile, 24.3% said they had been insulted at work, compared with 14.3% of people without disabilities or long-term illness and 34.5% said they had been shouted at, compared with 23.1%.

This mirrors the findings of previous research on the subject, from the National Autistic Society.

And conversations on Twitter have given further weight to these concerns. CHANGE, an organisation that works for the human rights and inclusion of all people with learning disabilities, told me that every person with learning disabilities who works for the organisation had been bullied in their previous job.

The authors of the current research offered several possible reasons for the higher level of ill-treatment, such as conflicts over sickness absence and interpretation of anti-discrimination legislation. But the researchers admitted that it could simply be the result of “stigma and discrimination”.

It again demonstrates that equality in society, for people with learning disabilities, is still a dream, and that much more work is needed if it is to be achieved.

While changing perceptions and tackling stigma, are concerns across all parts of society, it seems that efforts to tackle it in the workplace in particular, need to be strengthened.

There are many ways this could be done, such as through better advocacy to enable people with learning disabilities to get their voices heard, especially when they are being bullied.

Disability awareness training – for managers and employees – could play more of a role, as could providing more information about people with learning disabilities, to overcome some of the public ignorance about what it means to have such a disability.

Employing more people with learning disabilities in the delivery of services and training could also have an effect.

It is often difficult enough for someone with learning disabilities to get a job in the first place. They shouldn’t have to face bullying or threats, once they’ve succeeded in getting one.

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