The Reason Why Mr. Davies Is Completely and Utterly WrongPosted: 17 June 2011
In today’s news, Conservative MP Philip Davies offered a unique and quite frankly, baffling solution to one of the UK’s hardest hitting unemployment problems. Those who have physical or mental disabilities, Mr. Davies said, should ‘be given the option’ to offer themselves for employment at less than the minimum wage (which currently stands at £5.93p/h).
His argument, condensed, is this. Disabled people are heavily discriminated against in the employment market. When given the choice between a disabled applicant and one who is more able-bodied, employers will automatically choose the able-bodied person as they will be ‘more productive’ and ‘less of a risk’. As a result, disabled people are being done ‘a huge disservice’, as they are not given the chance to prove otherwise. He believes that disabled people should be given the choice to work at a lower rate to make employers more likely to employ them in a cash-strapped economy.
There are more than a few issues I have with this idea.
1. To assume there is significant difference in the productivity of disabled people is a mistake. Take, for example, two equally qualified people applying for a job in an office, one of whom is in a wheelchair. Sat at a desk, what is the difference to the company? (aside from the fact that the company does not need to supply the the disabled person with a chair?)
2. To assume in such a generic manner that disabled people are a greater risk to employ is wrong. Most companies in the UK do not provide their employees with health insurance. It is impossible to judge beforehand whether a disabled person will need more time off work than an able-bodied person, even with some form of medical test. Considering the number of threats to their health that millions of workers indulge in but are not discriminated against for – smoking, heavy drinking at weekends – would it even be accurate to make judgements based on health risks?
3. It is a law in the UK for multi-storey buildings to be equipped with a lift and suitable disabled access. Are we so still in the dark ages that the inability to walk up a flight of stairs should make it undesirable to employ a perfectly qualified person?
4. If someone is listed as actively seeking work, believing that they are able to work and is doing so with full support of their doctor, why should a non-medical professional decide differently?
5. On the other hand, If a disabled person is so mentally ill or physically disabled that they are unfit for work, why on earth would they be applying for a job that they know they can’t do?
6. If this policy is put into practice, there will be no ‘option’ for disabled people. Employers will be fully within their rights to forcefully employ disabled people at a lower wage, regardless of their personal ability and skill levels or suitability for the job. In a worst case scenario, they could even force those already employed at the minimum wage to accept less pay for absolutely no good reason, thus becoming poorer.
7. How would you decide how much each person would be paid? Making sweeping generalisations seems to be the fad of the hour, but supposing there was to be a scale in place where the least of the least able were paid the lowest… is it practical to employ such a system, when it would be a heinous waste of money and undoubtedly result in people being offered so little that it would be preferable for them to revert to JSA or incapacity benefits?
8. By putting this into practice, disabled people would automatically become second-class citizens in the eyes of their employers and the general public. We’ve seen this sort of flawed view proven wrong so many times in the past – with women, with people of different races, with people of a different sexuality. Is it not obvious that encouraging this sort of discrimination is regressing to the mistakes of the past?
9. Has Mr. Davies even asked those who would be affected by this policy before proclaiming that this is what they want? (I have a poll on Facebook to test this idea. Please vote!)
10. Mr. Davies clearly assumes that the reason disabled people cannot get work is that employers are discriminating against them, despite their ability to work. Is it not glaringly obvious that the real problem here which needs to be fixed is the ignorance of employers? (and also, perhaps, politicians?)