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Academic interview: Prof Fevre

8 October 2016
Portrait of Prof Ralph Fevre
Portrait of Prof Ralph Fevre © Natasha Hirst

Prof Ralph Fevre

Ralph Fevre took a somewhat accidental journey into disability and employment research. When undertaking a significant research project into ill treatment in the workplace, it had been anticipated that ethnicity would be a key factor for those experiencing bullying and harassment. However, the research showed that disabled people were overwhelmingly more likely to experience ill treatment and discrimination at work. (1)

Empirically, the link between disability and ill-treatment was irrefutable, even where individuals did not recognise that they met the legal definition of disability. It was a surprise to the researchers that disabled people did not make the connection that the unfair treatment arose as a direct result of their disability or health condition. Discrimination was often explained away with comments such as, “that’s just the way things are,” or “it’s a personality clash with my manager”.

This research enabled Prof Fevre and colleagues to shape public policy, and provided further opportunities to present to audiences including Government departments, trades unions and professional bodies such as the CIPD. The findings have also been discussed in specialist publications and was drawn upon heavily by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in their submission under the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Prof Ralph Fevre writes on a whiteboard
Portrait of Prof Ralph Fevre © Natasha Hirst

The wider influence of the 2008 Work Fit For All report (2) has shaped the Equality Act 2010, key Welsh Government equality objectives and trades unions and public sector employers responses to tackling disability discrimination.

This serendipitous realisation of the significance of disability and ill-treatment at work has created a  marked effect on policy and practice over the last few years.  However, this research constitutes a diversion from Prof Fevre’s broader social theory and employment research including inequalities in various contexts. Social theory utilises empirical evidence to study and interpret social phenomena, and Prof Fevre’s work has investigated the impact of devolution, social mobility, and how individualism is understood in different cultures.

Continuing work has been done on research impact around disability and discrimination in employment, providing some interesting case studies that will be discussed elsewhere on this website. The outputs include the production of this website and a forthcoming conference for stakeholders who produce and use research on disability and employment. A strong relationship has been forged with colleagues in Cardiff Business School to further work around disability and employment research. An invitation is extended to colleagues in the School of Social Sciences to continue the work around disability discrimination at work, alongside colleagues in the Business School!

Prof Fevre’s publications can be found here.

(1) Fevre, al. 2013. The ill-treatment of employees with disabilities in British workplaces. Work, Employment and Society 27(2), pp. 288-307.

(2) Fevre, al. 2008. Work fit for all – disability, health and the experience of negative treatment in the British workplace. Project Report.