This page describes best practice. It does not explain the law

2. Create a supportive and enabling workplace

Having the right culture in your workplace can support and enable disabled workers and workers with long-term health conditions. We will refer to both as 'workers' in this guidance. Talking openly to them about any barriers they may face at work can help make sure you are supporting them.

Be a supportive employer

To create a supportive and enabling culture in your workplace, make sure workers’ health, safety and inclusion is a core management priority. Make sure you do this throughout their employment. A supportive workplace culture can benefit the entire workforce. Have a consistent and proactive approach to all workers' health and wellbeing. Work and engage with worker representatives or staff disability networks.

Managers should show the right behaviours and actions. They should behave consistently and fairly. Managers, supervisors and owners should be accessible to staff. Managers need the skills to listen and empathise with workers. They need to understand what might affect them both in and outside work. Make sure your organisation recognises and enables good people management.

Support both managers and workers to challenge poor behaviours. This includes non-diverse and discriminatory practices. Supported managers and workers are more likely to feel safe, comfortable and confident to talk about barriers and obstacles in the workplace that prevent them from thriving in their role.

Also consider potential barriers and obstacles in the design of jobs and the workplace.

Make sure your practices are supportive and enabling

Respect workers' privacy, confidentiality and dignity in all workplace adjustments and practices.

Make sure any practices in your organisation are:

  • clear and accessible
  • applied consistently
  • explained to new starters
  • refreshed with existing workers

Take action to understand, remove or reduce barriers that put workers at a disadvantage. Correct workplace practices and culture will enable workers to thrive in their role.


How a manager made a supportive workplace and reduced absences

A new HR manager, at a manufacturing company with 59 workers, wanted to recruit and retain more staff. She noticed that there were a lot of sickness absences. There was also a lack of trust between managers and workers.  

What changed

She saw an opportunity to make the workplace feel more inclusive for everyone.
She set up weekly HR surgeries and encouraged workers to come and talk to her. She invited workers often by email, in newsletters and in person on the factory floor to be sure the invitation was accessible and open to all workers. At the sessions, she was always open and honest with anyone who attended. She asked them if there was anything the company could do to help them at any level to improve their experiences at work. 

The benefits

At one HR surgery, she spoke to a worker who told her that he was suffering from poor mental health. His wife was terminally ill. He was given sick leave and offered counselling. This supported him and allowed him to return to work when he was ready.

His colleagues had known that the worker had been struggling to cope. When they saw how he’d been supported, it started to build trust between management and workers.

Sign up for the Disability Confident scheme

You can show your commitment to equality by progressing through the levels of the Disability Confident scheme. This supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace.

The Disability Confident scheme can help you:

  • challenge attitudes towards disability
  • increase understanding of disability
  • remove barriers to workers
  • ensure workers have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations

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Updated: 2024-03-20