Embedding the Workforce Disability Equality Standard

Learn about the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) and access guidance and resources to help you support staff with disabilities.

18 March 2024

The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) came into force on 1 April 2019 and is a set of specific measures (metrics) that enables NHS organisations to compare the experiences of disabled and non-disabled staff. This information is then used by organisations to develop a local action plan, and enable them to demonstrate progress against the indicators of disability equality.

The WDES is important because research shows that a motivated, included and valued workforce helps to deliver high quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and improved patient safety. It supports positive change for existing employees, and enables a more inclusive environment for disabled people working in the NHS.

WDES 2023 data collection and the reporting framework

The WDES 2022 reporting timeline ran from 1 May to 31 May for NHS trusts and foundation trusts. It required metrics and narrative data to be reported via the WDES data collection framework (DCF).

In addition, trusts were required to publish details on their website by 31 October 2023 - this includes their WDES annual report which should contain their organisation’s data for each metric, their WDES action plan and details of progress.

Visit the NHS England to learn more about the WDES.

WDES 2023 report findings

  • The 2023 WDES report published in March 2024 showed some small improvements, for example 4.9 per cent of the workforce declared a disability through the NHS electronic staff record (ESR) in 2023, an increase of 0.7 percentage points since the previous year. 
  • 73.4 per cent of disabled staff reported they had the reasonable adjustment(s) required to perform their duties, an increase of 1.2 percentage points since 2022. 
  • 24.8 per cent of disabled staff reported having experienced bullying, harassment or abuse by colleagues, showing very little improvement since 2022. This is compared to 16.5 per cent of non-disabled staff. 
  • Some of the figures had worsened. The relative likelihood of a disabled colleague being in capability in 2023 is 2.17, compared to 2.01 in 2022. This means that disabled staff are now more than twice as likely to be in the capability process on the grounds of performance. 

Access WDES resources and disability related guidance