Catalysts for Eradicating
Discrimination in the
Ian Cunningham and Philip James
Two apparently positive and interrelated pressures for change currently exist to reduce discrimination against the disabled at work. The first is the managing diversity movement, which focuses on organisations responding to the individual needs and aspirations of all disadvantaged people in the labour market as a way of eradicating discriminatory practices (Ross and Schneider, 1992). The second is through legislation which, for the first time in the UK, provides a statutory right for disabled employees or job applicants not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their disability.Both approaches emphasise the need to combat discrimination against the disabled through focusing on the individual needs of people who are labelled as having a disability. This chapter consequently explores the extent to which these apparently complimentary approaches to dissolving discrimination can actually achieve their ends.
In order to gain an insight into the relative strengths of these two rather different perspectives, this chapter utilises survey and case study data to examine employer policies relating to the treatment of current employees who have (or subsequently contract) a disability. This focus of attention has been taken for three reasons. First, experience in the United States with the Americans with Disabilities Act indicates that over half of the claims made under the Act concern dismissals (Bruyere and James, 1997) — a situation which appears in the process of being repeated under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in the UK (IRS, 1998). Secondly, survey evidence shows that most disabled people in the workforce first contracted their disability whilst in employment