Mover: Wera Hobhouse MP (Spokesperson for Equalities).
Summation: Wendy Chamberlain MP (Spokesperson for Work and Pensions).
Conference notes that:
- Of the eight million working-age people in the UK who have a disability, just 52% are in work; for non-disabled people the employment rate is 81%, meaning the disability employment gap stands at 29 percentage points.
- On average, non-disabled workers earn £2.10 per hour more than disabled workers - a disability pay gap of 20%.
- The majority of disabled people are not born with their disabilities, but acquire them later in life; it could happen to anyone.
- Many employers are still hesitant to employ disabled people: in polling commissioned by Leonard Cheshire, one in five employers said that a declared disability would make them less likely to employ someone; 56% said the practicalities of making workplace adjustments was a barrier to employing disabled people, and 54% said the cost of adjustments was a barrier.
- As well as the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on their health and care, disabled people have also been disproportionately affected at work - whether through being furloughed, having their hours reduced, being unable to return to work or being made redundant.
- A survey by Unison found that half of disabled workers have been working entirely from home during the pandemic, with another 15% working from home some of the time; 73% of these said they were as or more productive working from home, and 54% of all disabled workers felt they would benefit from being able to work from home once the pandemic is over.
- The Chancellor's 'Plan for Jobs' in response to the pandemic made only one reference to disabled people - and that was merely to state that expanding the Work and Health Programme "will have no impact on the existing provision for those with illnesses or disabilities".
Conference believes that:
- Despite progress since the Disability Discrimination Act was passed in 1995, there is still much further to go to end discrimination against disabled people - including in the workplace.
- We must do far more to tackle barriers to work for disabled people, including by providing more support for employers to change the way they view disability.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitments to:
- Increase funding for the Access to Work scheme and raise employers' awareness of it.
- Make flexible working a 'day one' right: flexible working should be open to anyone from when they start a job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons why that is not possible.
- Require large employers with more than 250 employees to monitor and publish data on disability employment levels and pay gaps, as well as for gender, ethnicity and LGBT+ employees.
Conference further calls on the Government to:
- Implement a targeted strategy to support disabled people into work, with a Jobs Guarantee for newly unemployed disabled people and specialist disability employment support.
- Give disabled people a 'day one' right to work from home if they want to, unless there are significant business reasons why it is not possible.
- Improve the Access to Work scheme by simplifying and speeding up the application process to make it easier for employers - especially small businesses.
- Introduce 'Adjustment Passports' to record the adjustments, modifications and equipment a disabled person has received, and ensure that Access to Work support and equipment stays with the person if they change jobs.
- Increase Employment Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments by £20 a week.
Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes.
For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 6.
The deadline for amendments to this motion - see page 8 - and for requests for separate votes - see page 5 - is 13.00 on 8 March. Those selected for debate will be published in the Conference Extra and Friday Conference Daily updates to the Conference Agenda.