Disability Discrimination is not SMART

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2011 Energy Service Group Conference
25 February 2011

This conference is concerned that proposed changes being introduced by energy retailers to roll out SMART meter installations will have a disproportionate affect on disabled workers and disabled customers.

Based on previous experiences disabled meter readers have been forced out of contractual work into self employed status. Disabled people want the assurance that energy workers are members of an established internal workforce, trained to understand the needs of disabled people and vetted for safety as they can be delivering fuel services to some of the most vulnerable members of society.

We are also concerned that energy companies may be using capability procedures unfairly against those disabled workers who need time off to manage their long term health conditions or impairments. The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to ensure their workforce policies and procedures are not enabling disability discrimination, this includes capability, sickness absence, disciplinary and redundancy selection matters.

At a time of government public service cuts, an increased cost of living associated with fuel costs and state benefit reform will only add to the increasing poverty and job insecurity faced by our disabled members.

SMART meters are not the solution for many disabled customers who cannot afford the installation costs and may be unable to access information about their energy consumption because the electronic account has not been designed in an accessible format or because the cost of home based assistive technology is cost prohibitive.

This conference calls upon the Energy Service Group Executive to:

i) Raise issues about SMART meter accessibility and consumption monitoring methods with appropriate gas and electricity employers

ii) Lobby employers to retain, re-train and redeploy existing disabled workers who are at risk of dismissal due to the introduction of SMART meters

iii) Produce negotiating guidance for Energy Branches about employer obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

Submitted by the Disabled Members’ Self Organised Group