IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

What Has Limited the Impact of UK Disability Equality Law on Social Justice?


  • Rupert Harwood

    () (Department of Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour, University of Greenwich, 30 Park Row, London SE10 9LS, UK)


The literature indicates that disabled workers in the UK experience more social injustice than UK workers as a whole, including in relation to employment rates and wage levels. Drawing on the author’s 2015 qualitative study of 265 disabled workers, this paper considers how successful the Equality Act 2010 Reasonable Adjustments Duty has been in tackling this social injustice. It finds that in the context of the “flexible” labour force (consisting of insecure jobs), and the “reformed” welfare state, the Reasonable Adjustments Duty is ill-equipped to achieve its original purpose of reducing the substantial disadvantage that disabled workers face. As regards the “flexible” labour force, there appeared, for example, to be a strong reluctance to make reasonable adjustments for workers on zero hours contracts; while, as regards the impact of welfare reform, fear of being dismissed and facing benefit sanctions discouraged zero hours workers from pushing for adjustments which had been refused. The paper goes on to suggest a possible wording for a strengthened Reasonable Adjustments Duty. It concludes, however, that, without changes to unfair dismissal, and other labour laws, to address the wider iniquities of the flexible labour market, a strengthened duty will not be able to prevent a long term increase in social injustice for disabled workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Rupert Harwood, 2016. "What Has Limited the Impact of UK Disability Equality Law on Social Justice?," Laws, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(4), pages 1-23, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jlawss:v:5:y:2016:i:4:p:42-:d:82464

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ian Greer, 2016. "Welfare reform, precarity and the re-commodification of labour," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 30(1), pages 162-173, February.
    2. Baumberg, Ben & Jones, Melanie & Wass, Victoria, 2015. "Disability prevalence and disability-related employment gaps in the UK 1998–2012: Different trends in different surveys?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 72-81.
    3. Colin Crouch, 2012. "Beyond the Flexibility/Security Trade‐Off: Reconciling Confident Consumers with Insecure Workers," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 50(1), pages 1-22, March.
    4. Bell, David & Heitmueller, Axel, 2009. "The Disability Discrimination Act in the UK: Helping or hindering employment among the disabled?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 465-480, March.
    5. Rupert Harwood, 2016. "Can International Human Rights Law Help Restore Access to Justice for Disabled Workers?," Laws, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(2), pages 1-23, April.
    6. Simon Deakin & Prabirjit Sarkar, 2008. "Assessing the Long-Run Economic Impact of Labour Law Systems: A theoretical Reappraisal and Analysis of New Time Series Data," Working Papers wp367, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    7. Laura C. William, 2016. "The implementation of equality legislation: the case of disabled graduates and reasonable adjustments," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(4), pages 341-359, July.
    8. Deborah Foster & Peter Scott, 2015. "Nobody's responsibility: the precarious position of disabled employees in the UK workplace," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 328-343, July.
    9. Ralph Fevre & Amanda Robinson & Duncan Lewis & Trevor Jones, 2013. "The ill-treatment of employees with disabilities in British workplaces," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 27(2), pages 288-307, April.
    10. repec:gam:jlawss:v:5:y:2016:i:2:p:17:d:67659 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    social justice; disability; employment; Equality Act 2010; reasonable adjustments;

    JEL classification:

    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • K1 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law
    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law
    • K3 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F42 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - International Policy Coordination and Transmission
    • F68 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Policy


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jlawss:v:5:y:2016:i:4:p:42-:d:82464. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (XML Conversion Team). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.