New research shows that, despite the health and safety risks linked to COVID-19, around a fifth of employees with disabilities are seeing their work from home requests denied by their employer. 

Research from Scope, a charity that champions equality for people with disabilities, finds that around a fifth (18 per cent) of workers that have disabilities are being denied work from home requests.

Additionally, over one in 10 (11 per cent) were told by their employer that they could not be put on furlough. The same amount (11 per cent) of employees with disabilities were not redeployed within their company.

Overall, over a fifth (22 per cent) of staff with disabilities felt that they were forced to choose between physically going into work, despite the risks to their health, or keeping their job.

Additionally, a third of those aged 18-34 (33 per cent) had been refused a request to work from home. One fifth (20 per cent) had been refused redeployment whilst 15 per cent had been refused furlough.

Overwhelmingly, over half of respondents (55 per cent) reported their belief that people with disabilities had been forgotten in the Government’s economic plan. Earlier this year, the charity sent an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, signed by over 30,000 people which called for the Government to issue a clear plan which outlines how the rights and needs of people with disabilities will be protected throughout and after the pandemic.

Additionally, Scope have urged the Government to provide those who are extremely vulnerable with the automatic right to be furloughed.

However, the Treasury suggested that the responsibility fell with the individual employer:

Employers must ensure the safety of those with disabilities when considering working arrangements, including whether work can be completed remotely, and it is for employers to decide whether to make use of the furlough scheme.

In response to this, James Taylor, the executive director of strategy at Scope, said:

Furlough is a vital safety net for disabled people who don’t feel safe in the workplace, but whose jobs cannot be done from home.

It’s a sad indictment of the attitudes and views towards disability that disabled people are being left with no other option but to quit their job so they can stay safe, or take their chances with a deadly virus. Disabled people’s rights to furlough must be strengthened.

*This research from Scope was collected by Opinium on behalf of the charity. It surveyed 1,004 people with disabilities between November 9 and 12 2020.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.