NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard

NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard

What is the NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard?

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

Making a difference for disabled staff

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. The implementation of the WDES will enable NHS trusts and foundation trusts to better understand the experiences of their disabled staff. It will support positive change for existing employees, and enable a more inclusive environment for disabled people working in the NHS. Like the Workforce Race Equality Standard on which the WDES is in part modelled, it will also identify good practice and compare performance regionally and by type of trust.

WDES annual report 2019

The first WDES annual report has been published by NHS England and NHS Improvement and provides the first national review of the NHS workforce that relates to the workplace representation and career experiences of disabled staff.

At a national level, the evidence clearly highlights disparities between the experiences of Disabled and non-disabled staff across the 10 metrics. The analysis therefore demonstrates the need for trusts to take robust action, with monitoring and evaluation, to ensure that progress takes place and to embed the WDES into ongoing work programmes that support positive change. 

To access the report and executive summary visit the NHS England and NHS Improvement website.

WDES implementation resources

A suite of resources have been developed to prepare and support NHS trusts and foundation trusts with the implementation of the WDES, these include:

  • an inclusive approach to disability leave - this briefing highlights the benefits of having a disability leave policy and shares good practice examples from other NHS trusts
  • a guide to improving staff disability data - tips to help employers improve their staff disability data by using the recruitment process, manager engagement and data collection more effectively
  • reasonable adjustments - guidance on how employers can support disabled staff in the workplace by making reasonable adjustments
  • the ten metrics - detailing the specifics of each metric which covers areas such as the board, recruitment, bullying and harassment, engagement and the voices of disabled staff
  • a factsheet - providing key information on what the WDES is, why it has been created, who needs to report and the timetable
  • FAQs - an online resource of more detailed questions and answers which will be updated on a regular basis
  • a quick guide to implementation - including key actions from preparation and reporting, to action planning and implementation
  • a presentation - use this resource to brief and engage with your board or staff - this can be tailored to suit your audience
  • technical guidance - which provides details of the metrics, reporting and policy context
  • understanding the WDES metrics - Paul Deemer head of diversity and inclusion at NHS Employers has shared some helpful insights on the WDES metrics
  • implementation timetable (detailed at the bottom of this page)

WDES share and learn webinars

Over the last year we have hosted jointly with NHS England a series of three share and learn webinars to help provide further support with the implementation of the WDES. The webinar recordings can be accessed below.  

WDES timetable



April –May 2019

NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts review their datasets and declaration rates.

May – June 2019

NHS England will publish the WDES online reporting form on the NHS England website and will send NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts a pre-populated WDES Spreadsheet.

June – 1 August 2019

NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts:


  • Complete the pre-populated WDES spreadsheet and submit data to NHS England via the Strategic Data Collection Service.
  • Complete and submit the WDES online reporting form.


1 August – 30 September 2019  NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts publish the WDES Metrics and action plan on their websites. Note: The action plan and Metrics can be ratified by the next available Board meeting after 1 August, provided these are published no later than 30 September 2019. This deadline does not apply to the submission of the WDES spreadsheet and WDES online reporting form, which must be completed and submitted by 1 August 2019.

March 2020   

The first WDES annual report will be published.

Further information

Visit the NHS England website for additional information on the Workforce Disability Equality Standard or email england.wdes@nhs.net.

For guidance on the various types of employment related disabilities take a look at our disability confident and Learning Disability Employment Programme web pages.

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