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Lessons we can learn from the Paralympics

The Paralympic Games have a lot to teach us about what disabled people have to offer in the workplace.

The London 2012 Paralympics are casting a spotlight on just what disabled people can achieve with the right support and resources. But away from the glare of the stadium, the situation is very different. With disabled people still twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, what can we learn from the Paralympians?

Under the Equality Act 2010, it's unlawful to discriminate against workers because of a physical or mental disability or to fail to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a worker with a disability.

Many organisations still hesitate to employ disabled workers for a number of reasons. Employers tend to worry about the cost of making adjustments for disabled employees, or think that they won't be as productive as their non-disabled counterparts. They may also be concerned that they will require extra staff time and support, will have more time off sick or will have more accidents at work. Yet studies actually show the opposite to be true. Disabled workers tend to have fewer days off sick and fewer workplace accidents than their non-disabled colleagues. There's no evidence to show that they are a drain on staff time and resources, or are less productive, and many workplace adjustments for disabled workers require little or no cost at all.

There's also a strong business case for keeping on workers who develop disabilities during the course of their working life. Employers can continue to benefit from their skills and experience, while the employee can remain financially independent and professionally productive. An added bonus is the fact that employers can avoid the cost of redundancy or long-term sickness pay - not to mention the expense of recruiting and training up new staff.

Acas provides summary advice and guidance on disability discrimination and other protected characteristics in the workplace. See our guidance on The Equality Act 2010. Acas offers an  advisory service to help employers manage equality fairly. Acas Helpline can provide you with direct answers to questions you might have around disability and equality more generally in the workplace.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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