The issue of disability benefits has been all over the news following George Osborne’s March Budget. It led to much debate, both within Parliament and in the press, and to a particularly high profile resignation.
To make things worse for the Government, on 24 March 2016, a House of Lords committee published a scathing report on the treatment of disabled people. The report by the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee found that the Government has failed in its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) to the 11 million disabled people living in Britain.
The committee noted that the Government bears the ultimate responsibility for enabling disabled people to participate in society on equal terms, but has failed to put in place or maintain appropriate safeguards to protect some of the more vulnerable people in our society.
“Not only has the Government dragged its heels in bringing long-standing provisions of the Act into force, such as those requiring taxi drivers to take passengers in wheel chairs, but has in fact repealed some provisions which had protected disabled people. Intended to reduce the regulatory burden on business, the reality has been an increase in the burden on disabled people.”
Notwithstanding the Government’s alleged failures, businesses should be mindful of their obligations to job applicants, staff, and also clients and customers with disabilities. In particular, they should consider what reasonable adjustments may be appropriate to help disabled individuals perform on a more level playing field and to access their goods or services. In addition to the legal duty to comply with the provisions of the Act, businesses should look at the commercial benefits of a more diverse workforce and customer/client base.