Disability and Perceptions of Work and Management

AuthorMelanie K. Jones
Publication Date01 Mar 2016
Disability and Perceptions of Work
and Management
Melanie K. Jones
Matched employee–employer data from the 2004 Workplace Employment Rela-
tions Survey are used to examine differencesin work-related perceptions between
disabled and non-disabled employees. Even after accounting for differences in
personal, job and workplace characteristics, disabled employees are found to hold
more negative views on the treatment of workers by managers and, consistent
with this, they express less job satisfaction and commitment towards their
organization. The influence of disability is also examined across workplaces
defined by sector, the presence of disability-related policies and practices, and
employee views of management to explore the role of corporate culture.
1. Introduction
Disabled individuals in Britain are less likely to be employed than their
non-disabled counterparts and, on average, earn less when in work (see, e.g.
Kidd et al. 2000 and Jones et al. 2006). Investigation into the influence of
disability on other in-work outcomes has, however, been limited and is
restricted to features such as the type of employment (Jones and Latreille
2011), job-related training (Fumagalli 2008) and hours of work (Jones 2007).
There is less evidence still on how disabled employees feel about their work
and their perceptions of their workplace or management. This is despite
growing evidence of the importance of subjective measures (Oswald 2010),
including that work-related measures such as job satisfaction and commit-
ment are correlated with objective outcomes such as quits and workplace
performance (Brown et al. 2011; Clark 2001).
Despite their differing international and institutional contexts, among the
few studies explicitly concerned with the work-related perceptions of disabled
employees, there appears to be a consensus. Disabled employees are found to
hold more negative views across a range of measures including those in
Melanie K. Jones is at Swansea University.
© John Wiley & Sons Ltd/London School of Economics 2013. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd,
9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
British Journal of Industrial Relations
54:1 March 2016 0007–1080 pp. 83–113
doi: 10.1111/bjir.12043
relation to their own treatment at work in the UK (Fevre et al. 2008), job
satisfaction in Canada (Uppal 2005) and more general measures of fair
treatment by management in the US (Schur et al. 2009). The critical question
is why disabled employees hold different views of work and if, and how,
workplace characteristics, policies and practices are important. Schur et al.
(2005) emphasize the importance of corporate culture, defined as ‘the influ-
ence of an organization’s underlying values, explicit policies, day-to-day
practices, as well as supervisor and co-worker attitudes’ (pp. 14–15), on the
perceptions and engagement of disabled employees. Using US data, Schur
et al. (2009) find evidence in support, that is, disability is negatively associ-
ated with a range of employee perceptions except within the ‘fairest’ firms.
This article uses data from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations
Survey (WERS), a nationally representative survey of workplaces in Britain,
to provide a comprehensive examination of the work-related perceptions of
disabled employees. More specifically, we ask ‘Do disabled employees hold
different perceptions from non-disabled employees relating to their work and
workplace?’ The multi-dimensional nature of employee perceptions is cap-
tured by considering a range of measures including employees’ views relating
to (a) the workplace or, more specifically, management and (b) their own
experience of, and feeling towards, their work including job satisfaction,
influence and affective commitment. Where disabled workers are found to
hold different views, the article explores the source of this disparity. Initially,
we ask ‘Are differences in perceptions evident after controlling for personal
and employment related characteristics?’ That is, the article examines
whether differences in perceptions are a consequence of disabled workers
having different characteristics and holding different types of work. Further,
it examines whether controlling for ‘outcomes’ such as pay, training inci-
dence and supervision, which may, in part, reflect unequal treatment, mod-
erate this relationship. It is the residual influence of disability that could be
attributed to factors such as differences in preferences for work or job attri-
butes among disabled workers, or differences in the perception of treatment
by employers and co-workers.
The matched nature of WERS facilitates a detailed examination of the
influence of the workplace. We control for workplace fixed effects to account
for unobserved workplace heterogeneity and identify disability perception
gaps that exist within the workplace. Further, these disability gaps in per-
ceptions are also compared across workplaces with different characteristics.
In particular, differences between the public and private sector are considered
given the variation in culture and practice, which may exist as a consequence
of differences in social responsibility, particularly the status of the govern-
ment as a model or ‘good’ employer. Indeed, previous evidence confirms both
a greater prevalence of effective equality practices (Hoque and Noon 2004)
and improved outcomes, such as in terms of the gender pay gap (Chatterji
et al. 2011), in the public sector. The role of disability specific workplace
policies and practices, which may be thought of as capturing aspects of
corporate culture outlined in Schur et al. (2005), are also explored. Following
© John Wiley & Sons Ltd/London School of Economics 2013.
84 British Journal of Industrial Relations

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