In the Dark—78% of Welsh SMEs Unaware of the Legal Rights of Disabled Employees

New research reveals that Welsh employers have some way to go when it comes to understanding the legal rights of disabled employees in the workplace.

Researchers found:

  • 8 in 10 SMEs don’t know the rights that the Equality Act 2010 gives to disabled employees, and
  • 75% of SMEs in Wales want more training and education about disability employment law

Despite ambitious UK government policies to get a million disabled people into work over the next ten years, the latest ONS data shows a miniscule 5% increase since the 2017 goal, which would only see a total of merely 5,800 disabled people in work by 2027 if the pattern continues.

In light of the disability employment issue, a new survey of SME owners conducted by Bolt Burdon Kemp revealed a shocking 78% of Welsh respondents don’t know the legal rights of disabled employees.

Disability employment hindered by overall lack of knowledge 

The Equality Act 2010 was created to guarantee fair and just treatment for employees. Its aim was also to reduce socio-economic inequalities, reduce discrimination and harassment based on personal characteristics (like race, gender, sexuality or disability), and improve protections for workers.

In a multiple-choice, ‘tick any that apply’ question, the new survey asked SME owners to identify the protections that the Act gives to disabled workers. The possible answers included three of the key protections granted to disabled workers as well as two incorrect options. None of the Welsh SME owner respondents were able to fully identify all three of the protections granted to disabled without picking any of the incorrect answers provided. The rest of Wales respondents demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the regulations in various degrees:

·         22% partially identified the Equality Act protections

·         50% misidentified the Equality Act protections

·         16% couldn’t identify ant Equality Act protections

·         12% answered ‘don’t know’

Urgent call for disability rights training and education for employers 

Given their poor performance in identifying disability employment rights, it’s unsurprising that 75% of Welsh SMEs respondents stated they want more training and education about disability employment law.

The study revealed a lack of knowledge and training as a common theme across SMEs:

  • A shocking 53% of Wales SME owners say they have no training in disability employment law.
  • 38% of SMEs state that they don’t have enough knowledge of disability employment law
  • Encouragingly, only 6% of Welsh SMEs believe their HR department isn’t conversant enough in disability employment law

Welsh SMEs reluctant to employ people with brain injuries 

With the government’s Access to Work scheme thus far not specifying brain injuries as an individual disability (although brain injuries like cerebral palsy and epilepsy are specified in the latest report from the Department for Work & Pensions), it’s difficult to assess how many people with brain injuries currently make up the disability workforce.

According to the new survey findings, none of the Wales SMEs surveyed employ someone with brain injury. In comparison, the numbers are much more encouraging for disabilities such as depression or anxiety (55.5%), chronic pain or fatigue (37.0%) and learning disabilities (24.7%).

For a full overview of the study please visit:

[Methodology] This research was conducted in partnership with Censuswide between 31.05.2019 – 06.06.2019, asking 501 SME owners in the UK about their approach to disability employment. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.