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‘Extend disability laws to small firms’ says TUC


A million disabled people in the UK who want to work cannot find jobs. If disability legislation was extended to cover small firms, many disabled people currently excluded from the labour market might find it easier to get work, according to a TUC press release

Delegates attending Congress House on Friday for the TUC's annual Disability Conference, called on Equal Opportunities Minister, Margaret Hodge MP, to make changes to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and bring companies employing fewer than 15 people within the scope of the law.

Margaret Hodge made the keynote address at the day-long conference. Other speakers included Colin Low, member of the new Disability Rights Commission, and Rachel Hurst from pressure group, Disability Awareness in Action.

Around 90% of the UK's businesses employ fewer than 15 people and so do not have to comply with the law. Disabled trade unionists at the TUC event want to see the government implement all the recommendations of the Disability Rights Task Force which reported in December. The Task Force - which included business and small firm representatives - called for the small firm threshold to be scrapped, and for the DDA's other exemptions to be removed.

Apart from the small firm get-out, a number of public sector bodies are also free to disregard the contents of the DDA. Hence jobs in the police, the armed forces, and the prison and fire services are effectively closed to the eight million disabled people in the UK, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary, John Monks said: "Because small firms don't have to worry about complying with disability legislation, their workplaces are less likely to be accessible to people with disabilities. And because they don't have to make sure that a certain percentage of their staff are disabled, they are also much less likely to take on a disabled person.

"Only when the Disability Discrimination Act applies to all workplaces in the UK will disabled people start to experience those civil rights that we all take for granted."


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