[2021] Motion 08 The economic impact of Covid-19: defending disabled workers’ rights in current and post-Covid-19 periods

carried motion
Carried motion

Received from:

Disabled workers have been particularly affected by the pandemic, and the government’s measures in response to it.

Congress is extremely concerned:

i. about the disproportionate effect the coronavirus crisis has had, and is continuing to have, on the employment prospects of disabled workers

ii. that the coronavirus pandemic is severely impacting on disabled workers’ jobs, pay and entitlements – statistics also show that two in three who die from Covid-19 are disabled

iii. that deaf and disabled members have lost their jobs and facing extreme hardship as a result

iv. that the pandemic has exacerbated existing accessibility, isolation and disability rights barriers

v. that as unemployment increases, disabled workers are perceived to be draining the economy and face increased hate crime attacks.

Congress recognises:

a. If you are disabled and male, you are 6.5 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than a man who is not disabled.

b. The rate of death for disabled women is 11.3 times greater than women who are not disabled.

c. Workers having to shield are facing particular issues, especially if they cannot work from home.

d. Pre-existing disablist attitudes also mean that employers incorrectly believe that disabled workers are less productive than non-disabled workers. This has led to workers with impairments being much more likely to lose their jobs than workers without.

e. The lasting effects, known as long covid, can be extremely debilitating. The National Institute for Health Research has identified that ‘long covid’ may not be a single syndrome, but up to four different ones which may be experienced simultaneously. These subtypes include the after-effects of intensive care, post-viral fatigue, lasting organ damage and symptoms that fluctuate and move around the body.

f. Equity data reveals that at least 40 per cent of its members, and notably including many who are disabled, were ineligible for any form of Covid-19-related government assistance. Additionally, the re-introduction of the minimum income floor for self-employed workers applying for universal credit will ensure the maintenance of a punishing economic environment for disabled self-employed workers.

g. Existing reasonable adjustments should be reviewed as we are now working in a rapidly changing environment that should not leave disabled workers behind.

h. Employers must ensure they continue to meet their legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, as for example we see a change in the working environment, changes in office working dynamics and more home working.

Congress therefore calls on the General Council and the TUC Disabled Workers Committee to continue to campaign for rights for disabled people at work including:

1. a legal duty for employers to consider all disabled workers suitability for working from home, including ensuring that employers must rewrite jobs descriptions so that jobs can be performed from home

2. reforming the Access to Work fund to make it easier for disabled workers to work from home

3. giving disabled workers a new status of employment protection

4. an extension of the furlough scheme, or a creation of a scheme for shielding people who cannot work from home

5. improving the EHRC Employment Statutory Code of Practice

6. a campaign to have long covid recognised as a disability under the Equality Act 2010

7. raising awareness of the effects of long covid accompanied by a guide for reps supporting members

8. providing guidance for employers to review HR policies protecting disabled workers in the event of another pandemic

9. commissioned research on the specific economic and social plight of disabled self-employed workers and utilising this research to devise a targeted campaign to support the interests of this group of workers: this research should, in particular, focus on how the various government schemes introduced as a result of Covid-19 discriminated against disabled self-employed workers

10. ensuring this campaign involves leading campaigning organisations, eg Inclusion London, Disability Solutions West Midlands etc

11. encouraging employers to review reasonable adjustments for disabled employees

12. encouraging trade unions to highlight with employers and within their own memberships the disproportionate effect Covid-19 has had on disabled people

13. encouraging employers to develop robust strategies to support disabled people to help them stay in work in more flexible workplaces

14. developing a series of posters/adverts with positive images of disabled workers, working in the workplace, and at home.

TUC Disabled Workers Conference