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Disabled employees denied 20% of remote-working requests: Scope

What’s happening? Around 20% of disabled workers have had requests to work remotely rejected by employers, despite the risks of Covid-19, according to research from Scope. Further, 11% of disabled workers were denied furlough and another 11% were not redeployed within their company. Of the 1,004 workers surveyed, 22% felt forced to choose between work or their health, the charity reported.

Why does this matter? We first discussed remote working and its role in the “new normal” in March, when government advice made it necessary for employees to stay out of the office. At the time, we identified its potential to boost workforce diversity and access as one of very few silver-linings to the tragic situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, as the story above indicates, despite the vocal corporate commitments to diversity – spurred by both the pandemic and the prominence of movements like Black Lives Matter – some intentions may have fallen flat. Evidence even points towards businesses regressing around previous promises to accessibility and equal opportunity.

survey by Heidrick & Struggles showed that, in 2020, 965 of the world’s biggest companies rely almost exclusively on white male CEOs. Women only made up 5% of UK executive-level appointments for the year.

Furthermore, the BBC reported recently on data from UN Women, showing that Covid-19 could effectively erase 25 years of progress towards gender equality due to effects on employment and education opportunities, and family and home care dynamics.

Against this backdrop, it’s seems that, for many companies, improving diversity is a “fair weather” concern only taken up when times are good.

We should, however, question whether approaching an unprecedented crisis by retreating back to familiar corporate dynamics and making conservative decisions at the expense of employee opportunity and care, is the right course of action to take.

Lateral thought from Curation – Studies have shown diversity to be an asset to workplace innovation. It’s perhaps disappointing, therefore, that companies are opting out of hiring those who could potentially be invaluable in providing innovative solutions.

Putting diversity to one side, however, being more accommodating and allowing flexible working arrangements could be a smart step for businesses to take in order to attract and retain top talent. Doing so can allow companies to be flexible when key employees find their personal situations change, a scenario which could, without flexibility, result in these workers vacating their roles.

Sara Trett

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