Disabled miss out on jobs: Many employers break law on staff quotas, writes Rosie Waterhouse

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 90,000 disabled people are missing out on public sector jobs because employers are not fulfilling their legal obligation.

The law states that 3 per cent of every workforce of more than 20 employees must be registered disabled people, but a survey by the Trades Union Congress shows that 43 local authorities and health authorities have no disabled staff. The Department of Employment is the only government department to meet the quota, laid down in the 1944 and 1958 Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts.

The TUC is seeking a levy on employers who fail to meet the quota, and is calling on the Government to strengthen the existing legislation.

It also wants the Government to abandon plans to charge employers for state assistance with disabled staff; improve the Disability Working Allowance to increase the pay of some low-paid disabled employees; agree a European directive on transport to work; and make disability leave a legal right for newly disabled people and those whose condition worsens.

The TUC is also to lobby for disabled people to be entitled to become magistrates and judges, and is seeking a meeting with Nicholas Scott, the minister for disabled people, to discuss the proposals.

Since 1944, only 10 employers have been taken to court for failing to meet the quota. The maximum fine is pounds 100, which the TUC maintains is an inadequate sanction.

Since 1990, the removal of Crown immunity from the NHS has meant that NHS employers, including trusts, are now covered by the quota. And government departments, although still protected by immunity, have all undertaken to accept the same responsibilities as other employers.

The TUC's survey shows that in the entire public sector the number of disabled empoloyees is on average 0.8 per cent of the workforce; in local government, 0.9 per cent; among health authorities and trusts, 0.3 per cent; among nationalised industries 0.6 per cent; and across government departments, 1.5 per cent.