Report: TUC Disabled Workers' Committee, 16 December 2021

- report by Janine Booth, RMT nominee on the Committee

Flexible working and reasonable adjustments

The TUC has been advocating what it calls ‘flexible working as a reasonable adjustment’ for disabled workers. What it means by this is the right of disabled workers to work from home or another location, with hours that suit our access needs.

Although this is an important demanded, I argued that the wording being used is unhelpful, as ‘flexible working’ and ‘reasonable adjustments’ are two distinct legal concepts, with disabled workers having the right to reasonable adjustments but workers only having the right to ask for flexible working. When disabled workers apply for flexible working rather than reasonable adjustments, they are likely to miss out on the adjustments that they need. It is important, therefore, not to confuse the two terms. There was a useful discussion and strong agreement with this point from committee members, but since the meeting, it is noticeable that the TUC has continued to use its problematic wording. A better wording would be: changes to working hours and/or location as a reasonable adjustment. 

Disability Employment Charter

The Committee had previously decided not to back the ‘Disability Employment Charter’ that some unions and charities have signed up to, as it contains demands that contradicts our policies. TUC officials asked the committee if we would like to reconsider this decision. We said no.

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference

The Committee acts as the standing orders committee for TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference, so we did some business checking that motions and nominations were valid.

The Committee debated whether this year’s TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference will be held solely online or as a hybrid event with a physical conference with delegates facilitated to participate remotely. I favoured the latter, as online is more accessible for some disabled workers, but less accessible for others. The Committee voted by 6 votes to 5 to hold the conference solely online. I voted for the hybrid option, as I think it is important that people are able to attend in person if that is their preference.

We also unanimously agreed that (unlike last year) there would be full democratic processes at the conference, with motions being debated and voted on.

We discussed possible guest speakers (I suggested Liz Carr), and subjects for panel discussions (I suggested ‘accessibility as standard not ‘as required’’; other suggestions included the threat to disabled people posed by the far right).

Gathering evidence

Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) spoke about the work that DPAC and others are doing to produce a ‘shadow report’ on the UK’s failure to meet the standards set out in the United Nations Convention on disabled people’s rights. Committee members responded to Ellen’s request for evidence and points to be included about disabled workers’ concerns.

Working groups

We now have subgroups set up on: accessible transport; anti-union laws; education; international; and working together. I convene the first two, and will report on these separately.