Do you struggle to Get and Keep employment just because you have a disability?
Have you found that others less qualified or able than you are getting training and promotions ahead of you?
Has your employer tried to keep you out of work because of a recently acquired Disability or failed to properly assist you in your attempts to return to work?
For people with disabilities, it’s not just hard getting a job, it can be a struggle to keep it and to feel that your job is secure. People with Disabilities often find that they don’t get the same opportunities as others in the workplace for career progression and promotion.
“It’s hard to say that I have a meaningful job, because … people invariably see your competence as inextricably linked to the wheelchair and assume you can’t do things others can, without actually asking you” says one Client Jane*.
She said finding and getting the job was easy, as her disability isn’t always visible but for her, having real satisfaction in her role has been more of a challenge. There’s a feel of tokenism about things, not because that’s what’s happening but often that’s how people look at you which may be a wider societal issue. But employers need to do more to challenge that.
For some, even getting an interview proves almost impossible because as soon as you tick the “disability box” your applications are disregarded
The biggest challenge is often people who acquire a disability whether that be as a result of an accident or through illness such as depression or post traumatic stress disorder. Many people don’t realise that these are protected under the Employment Equality Acts too just like those with a physical challenge. An employer has an obligation not just to treat you equally or not to treat you in a less favourable manner but they must also do whatever is “reasonably” possible to facilitate you and your disability by providing you with “reasonable accommodation”.
That means that they need to engage with you and identify how you could do the job if assistance was provided and what assistance that might be.
“I want employers to see me before they see my disability…that disability is a normal part of life”.
Our Client MN’s parents passed away in 2016. They both died within a couple of months of one another and this hit her hard. She was out of work for almost a year after she developed a depressive illness as a result of the loss of her Mum and Dad. This was not her employer’s fault, but it meant that she could not continue doing the work she had been doing in the way she had done it. Thankfully, her employer recognised that and worked closely with us to find a suitable compromise. They examined her role and identified specific tasks she did which if taken away even temporarily would eliminate a lot of the more stressful aspects of her work. They also recognised that if she could return to work on a phased basis this would have a massive impact on her ability to do the job. This meant she could slowly ease herself back and build up her tolerance for the normal day to day stresses of working life.
“I am so thankful to my employer and Employment-Matters for helping me to overcome what was a significant debilitating issue for me”.
Natasha on the other hand worked for a large multinational HR company. She lost her Dad while at the same time being diagnosed with a back condition which caused her to tire quickly and suffer from fatigue. Up until that point she had been a high performed and valued team member but as soon as these issues arose, she felt that the Employer saw her as a problem and looked to force her out.
“We went through a lot of the usual Occ Health stuff and while they weren’t particularly helpful, I was focusing on my recovery and felt confident that I’d be able to return to work in the not too distant future. They sent me to a specialist around Christmas time and he was really positive about my prospects and felt confident that by the Spring, I would be likely to be fit to return to work. I was really happy and he suggested a further review in March of the following year. Things were looking up! And then I was called to a meeting and told that I was being dismissed on grounds of “capacity”. According to my unsympathetic employer they could not “keep my job open indefinitely”. I was devastated.
Thankfully, I got in touch with Employment Matters and Sean and his team were amazing. They guided me through the legal process and ultimately have won the case in the WRC, my former employer having appealed, agreed to settle the case. We even made it into the papers and I got €35k for my troubles!”
A lot of our Clients feel when this happens to them that they don’t have the confidence or capacity to take on their employer. They find the process daunting and sometimes even overwhelming. But that’s where we come in. We will guide you through the legal process, doing all of the necessary legal work that allows you to focus on rebuilding your self-esteem and finding another job if that’s what you choose to do. We will take the legal steps necessary to address your concerns. Usually this means by way of complaint to the WRC. Those complaints take about 12 months in total to reach a conclusion and all the while we will be right behind you guiding you through the process.
“A disability doesn’t mean a wheelchair, I was physically fine but I was struggling with other mental health issues which meant that I wasn’t capable of working long hours…Employment Matters helped me to challenge my employer to recognise that this needed to be addressed”.
What should you do if your Employer’s attitude works to exclude you or results in your less favourable treatment?
“No matter what you think you’re capable of doing, others can put in place barriers to prevent you from excelling. That is not pleasant and it is not right and it needs to change”.
Disability is a normal part of life
We can help you to challenge unfair or closed-minded thinking in the workplace. The Employment Equality Acts say that employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. It still unfortunately happens all the time.
“It will still happen behind closed doors,” Natasha says “[I want] society to see disability as a normal part of life and not be afraid to get to know someone with a disability.”