Disabled people should be asking employers if they are ‘fit to employ’

MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy tells UNISON’s disabled members conference that delegates work is ‘changing lives’

Scottish Labour politician Pam Duncan-Glancy (pictured above) underlined the need to increase the confidence of disabled people to self-define in the workplace, when she addressed UNISON’s disabled members conference yesterday.

Referencing one important aspect of the union’s 2022 Year of Disabled Workers, she said: “Self-defining as disabled is how we elevate our rights in the workplace, boardroom and, yes, in parliament.

“That’s how we turn the whole thing on it’s head. That’s how we make sure we force employers to ask themselves if they are fit to employ.

“When we empower more people to say they’re disabled, and not fear telling people, we empower them to claim their rights, and we grow our movement.”

Glasgow MP Ms Duncan-Glancy is also Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for education in the Scottish Parliament. She describes herself as a “proud disabled member” of UNISON and a disability equality and human rights activist.

She praised the conference for its work during the year of disabled workers, which “brought the plight of our members to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“You worked tirelessly to highlight the importance of changes to the workplace and working practices to support disabled workers, explain the disability pay gap and employment gap, and to increase confidence to self-define as disabled.

“In doing that, you gave me the permission to take the message all the way to parliament.”

The MSP spoke of how the cost of living scandal is affecting disabled people more than most.

“Cuts to social care are causing our friends to be stuck at home. Poor practise after COVID is leaving disabled people at a disadvantage,” she said.

“Comrades, I thought the pandemic might be an opportunity to reset, to show that what was once considered an unreasonable adjustment is now not just reasonable – as it always was – but is good for the workplace.

“We were promised the ‘new normal’ would be better, but the truth is, it’s looking quite like the old normal, plus more austerity and fewer options.”

Only 46% of disabled people are in work in Scotland, compared to 81% of non-disabled people, she said.

“We are only half as likely to get a job. And we have told the government, in no uncertain terms, that this is not due to a lack of desire to work.

“It is fundamentally down to a lack of support, a failure of systems and structures to take account of disabled people’s needs and rights, or of reasonable adjustments. And yes, it is down to discrimination.”

Ms Duncan-Glancy told delegates that the union’s work was changing lives.

“It has shifted the focus from the disabled worker being a hassle or a cost, to one where we’re proud to stand up for our rights.

“Friends, we’ve all heard of fit for work assessments? Well I say today, it’s time to ensure that employers are fit to employ.”