The Department for Work and Pensions is facing criticism as there has been an increase in the amount of staff reporting discrimination on disability grounds. Over 1400 civil servants reported that they had experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying on the grounds of a disability. This data came from the department’s latest staff survey and the number has increased from just over 1000 that was reported in the same survey in 2014.
The survey shows an increase of 23 per cent in just one year of the amount of staff reporting discrimination and the complaints have led to critics calling for the department, who lead efforts to tackle discrimination in the workplace, to ‘sort out their own housekeeping’.
Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, hasn’t responded publicly to the survey findings. DWP officials are downplaying the statistics, pointing out that the amount of people reporting discrimination has risen from 1.91% in 2014 to 2.36% in 2015. A spokesperson for the department said that it would be ‘overly simplistic’ to interpret the survey as a rise in disability discrimination incidents. He said that the figures were partly a reflection of the work that the department has been doing to encourage victims of discrimination to come forward.
The General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union who represent civil servants said that the findings were ‘very worrying’. More people responded to the 2015 survey than they did to the 2014 survey- an increase of 7,000- but the proportion of people reporting disability discrimination was higher. The survey also found more reports of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or age.
Currently, the DWP is encouraging employers to work on their understanding of disability and remove the barriers which prevent disabled people from getting promoted at work. Baroness Campbell said that the Government needs to look at its own figures in order to understand the ‘complexities’ which prevent disabled people from entering into employment. The spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services Union said that it was ‘shocking’ that the DWP who are responsible for promoting disability awareness and employment inclusion are treating their staff ‘so badly’. He added that one of the union’s primary concerns in previous surveys is that the findings are often ignored, but ministers and senior figures ‘must act on these results’.
The department is already under criticism as it plans to cut the benefits of thousands of disabled and long-term ill people who receive employment support allowance. Disabled people who are in the work related activity group are classed by assessors to be likely to be able to work in the future are likely to lose £120 a month in support. This is expected to save the Government £640 million by the year 2020.
A spokesperson for the DWP said that bullying, harassment or discrimination in any form is ‘unacceptable’ and when it is formally reported it will be dealt with in the ‘strongest possible way’.
If you have any concerns about discrimination in the workplace, you can contact the DWP who will be able to assist you in making your next steps.