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Disability, Reasonable adjustments & Austerity - Research report by P.I.R.U via DPAC

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Joined: 09/03/2008

Picked up from the<t RSS feed. DPAC is "Disabled People Against Cuts".

They report on the Public Interest Research Unit (P.I.R.U) research into "Disability, Reasonable adjustments & Austerity" presented to the British Universities Industrial Relations Association< Conference on 8th July 2011.

Below is part 5 of the report "Conclusions & Discussion". You can download a PDF version of the report here<, get Adobe Reader free by clicking here.<

Click here for the article on DPAC's website<.


5.1 Conclusions  

The analysis of the in-depth interviews, and organisational documents, suggested
that a number of organisational characteristics (including organisational politics,
norms, climate, structure, and policies), employee characteristics (including nature of
the impairment, role and value to the organisation, knowledge and resources, and
willingness to fight), and manager characteristics (including level of discretion,
training and knowledge, attitudes, and relationship with managed employees),
influenced whether adjustment were made. In relation to employee 'role', for
example, a Disabled Workers Group member said that she had never heard of an
adjustment being made for someone working 'on a temporary or casual basis'. The
analysis also suggested possible interactions within and between organisational,
employee, and manager characteristics, and between each of these and more
external influences, including, in particular, equality legislation (including, of course,
the reasonable adjustments duty) and government spending cuts. For example, a
number of HR officers indicated that, under the influence of the cuts, some
adjustments might no longer be considered 'reasonable'.
There were, however, some clear limitations to the study. In particular, while the
interviewees were not intended to be a representative sample, the degree of variation
aimed for has not yet been achieved. It has proved difficult, for example, to find non-
management interviewees from museums. In addition, the over-riding research aim
of protecting participant anonymity led to the partial abandonment of a number of
approaches which had been regarded as making important contributions to reliability
and/ or validity. In relation to reliability, for example, it had been planned (as part of
an 'open grounding' approach) to enable the reader to challenge the findings against

large chunks of research data (but this might have given too much of a 'clue' as to
who the interviewees were). In relation to validity, it was decided that indicating (as a
form of triangulation) where interviewees from the same organisation agreed/  
disagreed with each other would have risked revealing each of these interviewees to
the other.  
5.2 Discussion

The impression gained was that there was a quite strong disability equality ethos
across the interviewee organisations; that all the managers, HR personnel, and union
reps, felt that the reasonable adjustments duty had a substantial impact upon their
practice; and that all the employees with impairments felt that the duty had
significantly or substantially improved their situation. Further, there appeared to be a
consensus, amongst those who commented on the matter, that practice was, in
general, a good deal worse in the private sector.  
However, the interviews provided a significant number of examples of what appeared
to be poor equalities practice. In addition, it appeared that breaching the disability
equality duty (in relation to equality impact assessments) was standard; that the
majority of HR officers underestimated what was required under the reasonable
adjustments duty; that employees often had to fight to get adjustments (while some,
including on account on ill-health, were unable to do so); and that some officers had
a particular focus on adjustments as 'carrying' the employee (as opposed to, for
example, reasonable adjustments enabling employees with disabilities to make an
equal contribution).
It also appeared, from some of the interviews, that cuts in government grant have
lead to fewer adjustments, delays in adjustments being made, and employees having
to fight harder for them. Further, it might be wondered whether - under the combined
pressure of the cuts, an official nod towards side-stepping 'regulations', and the
portrayal across the media of the disabled as fakes and fraudsters (the results of
which appear to be spilling over into the work place) - the future of the public sector
disability equality ethos might be in some doubt. And, of course, while it seems
unthinkable that the Equality Act will be savaged as a result of the Red Tape
Challenge ...  "