Remote and flexible working is something we are all familiar with now. The prospect of working from the comfort of your own home and managing your own schedule is something everybody is backing. With the massive increase in this working arrangement since the pandemic, it has had one revolutionary benefit: more accessibility for disabled people.
It is true that many companies cannot cater for disabled people. The working environment is not suitable, or the company equipment is not able to be accessed by someone with a disability. Even if this isn’t the case, and the facilities do have ample measures in place to facilitate someone with a disability, there are many other factors which play in. For example, the commute to work or specified disabled parking spaces. Because of these facts, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed.
At the height of the pandemic, when we were first introduced to a lockdown, many businesses, including law firms and other legal bodies, switched to working from home indefinitely. This adjustment, one which 60% of workers UK wide have got on board with, is an adjustment that disabled people may have been entitled to anyway under the Equality Act 2010. With the adjustment of working from home for everybody, it removes the stigma and normalises disabled people requesting reasonable adjustments. The ability to work from home removes pressure, and they are able to work at their own pace and manage their impairment in any way they have to. By the same token, studies suggest that disabled people who were still in their workplace and not working from home found it a lot easier to make a request for reasonable adjustments during the lockdown period.
As we are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, and ‘normality’ as we all knew it pre-March is something we can only look back and reflect on now, it is fair to say that workplaces will have to continue reviewing their flexible approach. With the majority of people working from home, it is important to establish an innovative space where everyone can come together and connect with their team, even when working remotely. It is now common to see on job listings that the advertised position can be fulfilled remotely, this is something employers should propose to do across the board to ensure that they are being totally inclusive.
With the rise of virtual recruitment and many planned networking events all switched to virtual, it has clearly made way for a more diverse workforce. Remote and flexible working encourages people, regardless of their background or restrictions, to apply for a job that they otherwise would not have or feel more comfortable in their current place of work due to evolving mindsets and workforce changes. With the country proving its ability to act and adapt quickly in moments of adversity, it is solid proof that we are likely to see a rise in opportunities for disabled people who are not employed and for those that already are, hopefully a fresh approach to equal opportunities.