The influence of the management and organisation of work on disabled people

Significant changes have taken place in recent times in relation to the way in which work is managed and organised. Our research has sought to assess the extent to which these changes have made the workplace a more welcoming or hostile environment for disabled people

In recent years organisations have increasingly adopted High Performance Work Practices (HPWPs) such as competency testing in employee selection, developmental performance appraisals, individual performance-related pay, teamworking and functional flexibility. Our research has sought to explore the impact of these HPWPs on disabled people by developing and exploring both the ‘positive effects’ and ‘negative effects’ hypotheses. The ‘positive effects’ hypothesis argues that the HPWPs listed above will disproportionately benefit disabled people as they will increase the likelihood that disabled people’s ability and performance will be recognised, measured and rewarded objectively, and will enable jobs to be designed in a manner that overcomes impairment-related restrictions.

By contrast, the ‘negative effects’ hypothesis argues that such practices have the potential to militate against the fair and objective assessment of disabled people’s competencies and performance and can also lead to work intensification, which is likely to be particularly problematic for disabled people. We test these competing hypotheses using data from the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study. We find that the number of disabled employees is proportionately lower in workplaces with these HPWPs than in workplaces without them (Bacon et al. 2015).

The adoption of disability equality practices appears to help mitigate this effect, this nevertheless suggests support for the ‘negative effects’ hypothesis.. However, there is only very limited evidence to suggest that the HPWPs listed above are associated with the size of the gaps in work-related well-being between disabled and non-disabled employees. This suggests that while that while disabled people are less likely to get into (or remain in) workplaces making greater use of these HPWPs, those that do so have the sorts of impairment-related restrictions that are likely to be not particularly limiting within such workplaces.

Academic research within this theme:

Foster D and V Wass (2013) Disability in the labour market: An exploration of concepts of the ‘ideal worker’ and organisational ‘fit’ that disadvantage employees with impairments, Sociology, 47(4): 705-721.

Hoque K, Wass V, Bacon, N and Jones, M (2017) Are High Performance Work Practices (HPWPs) enabling or disabling? Exploring the relationship between selected HPWPs and work-related disability disadvantage. Forthcoming in Human Resource Management

Connolly P, Bacon N, Wass V, Hoque K, Jones M (2016) “Ahead of the Arc” – a Contribution to Halving the Disability Employment Gap, Chapter 6 Organisational practices