SRA study finds firms not meeting needs of disabled staff

updated on 23 March 2020

A study of 3,000 firms by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has found that many law firms do not know how to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff and solicitors are concealing their disabilities at work.

The SRA stated: “One of our most startling findings was around the uncertainty about providing workplace adjustments. How should these be approached? Did they need to be reviewed? What happens when adjustments change?”

Only 3% of solicitors reveal that they have a disability over fears that the disclosure of such information may impact their careers. The SRA said: “This suggests many disabled solicitors are not declaring their disability, so are potentially missing out on support and adjustments which could and should be available to them”.

According to the Law Gazette, the study suggested a number of measures that firms should implement in order to support the wellbeing of its disabled staff – for example, firms could:

  • collect and monitor disability data throughout the recruitment pipeline; and
  • encourage management to have a “flexible, open-minded approach to managing employees and working”, which can be as simple as introducing flexible start and finish times with the aim of “removing stigma attached to staff leaving work early or starting later or working from a different location”.

In addition, the SRA suggested that firms should review the psychometric tests used in the recruitment process to ensure inclusivity, as well as liaise with recruitment agencies to increase the diversity of candidates.

Law Society president Simon Davis stated: “The SRA report shows many disabled lawyers are reluctant to mention their disability to their employer – and are missing out on adjustments which may be available”.

In the Law Society’s anonymous 2019 survey of practising-certificate holders, 16% of respondents reported having an illness or disability which impacted their day-to-day life. David added: “Everyone should feel comfortable bringing their full self to work and supported in asking for any reasonable adjustments”.

Recognising that change is necessary, Davis explained that the Law Society is currently working on professional guidance to help firms understand how they can better support disabled people and create more inclusive work environments.