More than 9 in 10 SMEs don’t know the rights that the Equality Act 2010 gives to disabled employees.

Training and education call.

A survey of UK SME owners conducted by Bolt Burdon Kemp has found a shocking 95 per cent of respondents don’t know the legal rights of disabled employees. Despite ambitious government policies to get a million disabled people into work over the next ten years, the latest ONS data shows a miniscule five per cent increase since the 2017 goal, which would only see a total of merely 5,800 disabled people in work by 2027 if the pattern continues.

To help address this the Equality Act 2010 was created to guarantee fair and just treatment for employees. Its aim was also to reduce socio-economic inequalities, reduce discrimination and harassment based on personal characteristics (like race, gender, sexuality or disability), and improve protections for workers.

The Bolt Burdon Kemp survey consisted of a multiple-choice, ‘tick any that apply’ question, asking SMEs to identify the protections that the Act gives to disabled workers. The possible answers included three of the key protections granted to disabled workers as well as two incorrect options. Only five per cent of SMEs were able to correctly identify all three of the protections granted to disabled without picking any of the incorrect answers provided. The rest of respondents demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the regulations in various degrees:

·         22 per cent partially identified the Equality Act protections

·         41 per cent misidentified the Equality Act protections

·         9 per cent couldn’t identify ant Equality Act protections

·         23 per cent answered ‘don’t know’

In terms of industry split, sales, the legal sector and HR are the least knowledgeable sectors when it comes to disabled employees’ rights, while finance, retail and IT are best at correctly identifying disability employment protections. Nevertheless, the percentage of respondents fully aware of the legislation remains low across all small business sectors:

·         Finance – 8.3 per cent identified all three correct answers

·         Retail – 7.8 per cent

·         IT – 7.5 per cent

·         Arts – 2.9 per cent

·         HR – 0 per cent

·         Sales – 0 per cent

·         Legal – 0 per cent

Given their poor performance in identifying disability employment rights, it’s unsurprising that 93 per cent of SMEs respondents stated they want more training and education about disability employment law. Out of these respondents, over half (55.5 per cent) state that the government needs to do more with regards to education and training.

For a full overview of the study please head here.

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