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Saturday, 23 October 2021
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Chronically ill and disabled workers enduring regular discrimination in UK workplaces

A new report has revealed the discrimination experienced by chronically ill and disabled people – who comprise 1 in 4 of the UK workforce.

It shows they face uncertainty and disruption in the workplace and lack of career opportunities, due to their health, with more than 1 in 3 (38%) reporting that their health needs were not taken seriously at the interview.

Released by UK charity Astriid, ‘Employment and Long-Term Illness: The Invisible Talent Pool’, pulls together research and advice from UK-wide organisations and from polling one-third of Astriid’s candidates.

Candidates reported that when it came to applying for a new role, many were concerned about disclosing their long-term illness due to fear of discrimination.

One of the respondents reported:

“I was made to feel like a waste of time and energy, being told a lot of times ‘We’re taking a chance on you’ which I don’t feel would have been said to someone who wasn’t ill.”

The report also highlights that traditional 9 to 5 to 35-plus hour roles are unsuitable for most job seekers with long-term health concerns. However, only 6% of vacancies in flexible roles that would suit this workforce offer a salary that sufficiently covers the cost of living.

Despite the 2010 Equality Act, the paper identifies a nervousness from those with an illness or disability to ask for reasonable adjustments at work. More than a third fear being treated differently, and more than a quarter don’t want to approach their employer.

In response to the report, Astriid, which the late David Shutts OBE founded in 2018 after a cancer diagnosis left him feeling ignored and ‘on the scrap heap’, has launched the Astriid Challenge.

The month-long virtual event during July, which has already attracted 400 global participants, aims to raise awareness and bring much-needed monies into the charity. It also hopes to show the plight of people suffering from long-term health conditions who have been ‘living in isolation’ long before the pandemic began.

Steve Shutts, CEO of the charity and David’s brother, explained:

“As the majority of the population countdown to freedom, many of those with chronic health conditions, or their carers, will continue to experience isolation, restrictions and limitations on their daily life.

“So, we’re asking people to set themselves an individual or team challenge to carry out during the month of July, in recognition of the millions of people who face challenges every day as a result of a long-term health condition or disability. Between 1-31 July 2021, we want to collectively travel the distance around the world, covering 40,075 kilometres.

“We hope that by spreading it across one month, it will allow many with health conditions to take part when their symptoms are at their best. Anyone can participate – whether they walk 1km or run 100km – it will make a difference to us reaching our overall goal.”

Steve says any funds raised will go towards several projects, including a training and reskilling programme, back to work support and a research study to attract more prospective employers and live job roles.

Astriid actively matches its members, who it has coined ‘The Invisible Talent Pool’ – the 10 million-strong community of talented UK professionals who have turned away from career opportunities because of their health – with meaningful employment. With roles spanning a wealth of sectors and specialisms, it has an enviable collection of blue-chip partner employers on its books, including Ageas UK, Salesforce, and Altran.

Steve concluded:

“COVID-19 has been a great catalyst for change in many workplaces – flexible and hybrid working patterns and more of a focus on health and wellbeing are becoming widely accepted. We truly hope this inclusive outlook extends to the invisible talent pool – those who have plenty to give but are treated differently or overlooked because of gaps on their CV or ill-health.”

The Astriid Challenge runs from 1st July. For more information, to register or to donate, please visit: https://www.astriidchallenge.org/.

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