Workplace violence research ‘shows need for social model’


theweek120by150Disabled employees are more than twice as likely to be attacked and injured at work as non-disabled members of staff, according to researchers.

Disabled members of staff experienced higher rates of 21 different types of ill-treatment at work – including persistent criticism, teasing and intimidating behaviour – their research found.

They were also more likely to be given impossible deadlines or be gossiped about or shouted at, according to the paper in the journal Work, Employment and Society.

People with mental health conditions and learning difficulties were even more likely to be assaulted, teased and criticised. They were more than four times as likely to experience physical violence at work as non-disabled colleagues.

The disabled people who took part in a survey analysed by the researchers said managers were responsible for 45 per cent of the more serious ill-treatment, colleagues for 18 per cent, and customers or clients responsible for 28 per cent.

Richard Currie, an executive member of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said the paper showed “how far we have to go on working with organisations on the attitudinal barriers facing disabled people”.

He said: “[It shows] how employers need to really place the social model of disability at the centre of their policies and procedures surrounding the employment of disabled people.”

He suggested that the social model should be part of disability equality training, with a recognition of the “distinct issues that disabled people face”, policies and procedures developed “in the spirit of co-production”, and greater use of disabled people’s employee networks in delivering that training.

He added: “A lot of disabled people still feel intimidated when they face disability hate crime or discrimination on this basis, so within the workplace it needs to be made clear to disabled people that there are correct and proper facilities for the reporting of this treatment at work.”

In their paper, The Ill-treatment of Disabled Employees in British Workplaces, Professor Ralph Fevre, Dr Amanda Robinson, and Trevor Jones of Cardiff University, and Professor Duncan Lewis, of Plymouth University, say: “Any one of these forms of ill-treatment could have an adverse effect on their productivity and, in turn, shore up assumptions about the lack of productive worth of people with disabilities.

“The efforts employees with disabilities make to escape ill-treatment may also exacerbate their marginalisation in less productive, and less well-paid jobs, or even lead to their withdrawal from the labour market altogether.”

Their analysis is based on data from the British Workplace Behaviour Survey carried out in 2007-08, which involved face-to-face interviews with nearly 4,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales, 284 of them disabled people or those with long-term health conditions.

6 March 2013