Make 2021 the Year of Disabled Workers

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2019 National Delegate Conference
18 February 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference believes that one of UNISON’s strengths lies in its recognition of the value and unique experiences disabled people bring to the workplace and to our union. UNISON recognises that people are disabled by societal and environmental barriers rather than their medical condition.

Conference, commends the work of UNISON’s National Disabled Members Committee to raise the profile of its disabled membership across the UK and also commends its achievement in securing representation for disabled members on our union’s highest lay body, the National Executive Council.

Conference joins in the international condemnation of how the UK Government’s policies affect disabled people and the lack of progress towards fulfilling the obligations set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that the UK signed in 2009. In particular we share concerns relating to the persisting disability employment gap, the persisting wages gap, and concern that not enough is being done to ensure disabled people can gain and maintain employment.

Conference draws attention to Article 27 of the Treaty that places a duty on the UK government to create the conditions that promote equal opportunity for disabled people in relation to work and employment.

The UK government has committed to the employment of one million more disabled people by 2027 but this cannot be achieved through the current policy of penalising disabled people who are not in work. A 2018 Report by the House of Commons “People with Disabilities in Employment” noted that there would need to be an 18% rise in the employment of disabled people from current levels to meet that target. Conference is concerned about the potential for under-employment and lack of meaningful work and progression opportunities for disabled people which are both factors that contribute to disparity in wages.

Conference is concerned that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU could affect both the progress towards meeting the Treaty’s obligations and also the UK Government’s commitment to the employment target set.

Conference observes that there is no equality monitoring of Disabled Members in UNISON and no requirement for employers to report on the numbers of disabled people they employ or the disability pay gap. We need an understanding of how many of our members are disabled, the barriers they face and how austerity has impacted disabled people in the workplace if we are to provide our activists relevant training to support our disabled membership in the workplace.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to make 2021 the Year of Disabled Workers, in UNISON and to ask the TUC and other unions to support the initiative. As part of that Year Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with the National Disabled Members Committee:

1)To develop and deliver events and activities to mark the Year of Disabled Workers that:

a)Celebrate the successes and contributions of disabled people in the workplace;

b)Challenge societal and environmental barriers to employing disabled people;

c)Showcase success stories and visible role models.

2)To undertake a survey of our membership to determine the number of members who self-declare as disabled and the barriers they face, and to report on the findings;

3)To undertake an audit of disability-related training available across UNISON and including training on specific health conditions (for example, dementia awareness) and to map the density of activists trained in each across each of our Regions and to report on the findings.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with the Labour Link and other relevant groups to lobby Parliament and devolved governments to enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into law across the UK irrespective of the Brexit outcome.

Conference also calls on the National Executive Council to work with the National Disabled Members’ Committee:

i)To encourage branches to share experiences, both good and bad, to provide learning opportunities for our activists when supporting disabled members at work;

ii)To encourage branches to press for meaningful work and progression opportunities for disabled members and progressive workplace policies, such as disability leave, to facilitate this.