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  • 2021molyneuxphd

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Disabled People, Work, and Small-Medium-Size Enterprises (SMEs)

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Cara Molyneux
Publication date09/2021
Number of pages237
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • ESRC 1+3 Studentship
Award date20/09/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Finding solutions to address the UK Government aim of getting one million more disabled people into paid employment by 2027 requires a better understanding of the nuanced demand-side barriers currently affecting small and medium size businesses (SMEs). SMEs have been a more robust employer of the unemployed than larger firms meaning they have a unique role in providing employment for disabled people. It is therefore critical to understand how SME employers experience the process of recruiting and retaining disabled people and how disabled people experience working for SMEs. This thesis finds that jobs are still designed with the typical able-bodied worker in mind, and SME practices are often inflexible and therefore exclusionary for people who are deemed not to fit the abled-body worker identity. Yet, despite this, disabled people report feeling welcome in SME workplaces because of the informal nature of the employment relationship. The findings suggest a social relational approach to workplace flex-ability is needed to consider ability-diversity as typical to the human condition. As a value-based and inclusive approach, flex-ability differs to more traditional understandings of flexibility because it aims to operationalise more enabling employment practice by changing workplace culture and practice. In this atmosphere of trust and acceptance, disabled people feel comfortable talking about impairment effects thus reducing the disclosure dilemma. In turn, responding to the needs of disabled workers by changing the workplace instead of changing the individual is therefore the essence of a social relational approach to flex-ability in work.