Page published on 30th April 2024
Page last modified on 30th April 2024


We are pleased to publish the results of the latest IP Ability survey. The survey was performed across winter 2022-2023 to help us shape our future plans, allowing us to target support and awareness-raising to the areas where they are most needed. As a similar survey was performed in December 2019, we were also able to compare any changes that have occurred over the past few years.  You can download the full report here or read on for the Executive Summary.



The survey was open to all IP professionals, whatever their role and career level. Importantly, it was just as much for people who do not have disabilities or caring responsibilities as for those who do: this gives us valuable information about the extent of any problems that the responses identify.

Fifty-five people responded to the survey, of whom about 58% have a disability or condition and 10% have caring responsibilities. One of the survey questions focused on how individuals preferred to be identified. The range of answers varied, indicating that the terms used should be tailored to the individual’s preferences.


Support and inclusion at work

At the time when they entered the profession, the majority of respondents did not have their disability (or were not aware of their disability, around two-thirds of respondents) or caring responsibility (around 97% of respondents). Of those who did have a disability when they entered the profession, only half were open about their disability at the time, with embarrassment being noted as a reason for not disclosing. This suggests that stigma still impacts the ability of people to speak openly about their conditions.

Positively, there was an increase in the number of respondents that had told their employer/line manager about their disability/caring responsibilities (59% and 56%, respectively) compared to the 2019 survey where less than half of the respondents had told their employer/line manager. In addition, there was an increase in the percentage of respondents reporting that the line managers understood, or tried to understand their disability/caring responsibility, but there was still a large proportion of respondents who felt that their line managers were not willing to understand (around 18% for disabilities and around 29% for caring responsibilities). In addition, there was an increase in the number of respondents reporting that their employers make information regarding support for people with disabilities or caring responsibilities available. However, only a third of respondents reported that their employer made such information available regarding disabilities, and only a fifth of respondents reported that their employer made such information available regarding caring responsibilities, suggesting that there is still room for improvement.


Workplace adjustments

55% of the respondents had workplace adjustments in place. There were a wide range of adjustments that included: adjustments to working patterns (eg flexible working, home working or reduced hours) or specialised equipment (eg a desk, a chair, computer hardware or software). However, it was clear from the responses that getting these adjustments had not been straightforward in every case. Some respondents reported that it was relatively easy to obtain adjustments. However, many had had to overcome barriers. These appeared to centre around themes of a lack of understanding (eg regarding the benefit of adjustments to both the individual and employer and the type of adjustments available) or an issue with the attitude/culture (eg requiring a high burden of evidence, adjustments only being applied informally or not being implemented once agreed, questions as to the individuals’ performance if the adjustments were applied etc). This was supported by comments by respondents as to why they felt they were receiving inadequate support.

Many respondents reported that working from home made it significantly easier to manage their working life in the context of their condition or caring responsibilities due to, for example, greater flexibility, ability to manage their own time, improved concentration, time to process tasks/issues before responding, the option to attend events/courses online, no travel time, the option to work in your preferred way eg warmth, position, frequent breaks etc.  The ability to work from home also allowed people to feel safer with regards to exposure to illnesses where they lived with someone who was immuno-compromised. Many appreciated the choice to work remotely and/or valued hybrid working, although some reported that remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic made their condition worse, often due to isolation, lack of connection, lack of routine, lack of face-to-face interaction, uncertainty, etc.


Career development

Around two-thirds of respondents reported that they felt career development opportunities were generally accessible to people with disabilities and caring responsibilities. However, it was noted by some respondents that this is difficult to assess because they were not aware which colleagues had a disability or caring responsibility, indicating that there may be some benefit to transparent policies for career progression, mentoring from senior members of staff with disabilities or caring responsibilities, and/or the availability of role models. In addition, people were unclear how the difficulty in meeting targets, in part hindered by a lack of adjustments, could affect their career development. People also noted that there is a barrier to becoming EP- or UK-qualified as a patent attorney due to the length of the exams and the requirement for a certain amount of time in practice for the EQEs.


What next for IP Ability?

The final questions in the survey asked what IP Ability could provide that would be helpful for disabled people, carers and their employers, and the responses provided lots of great ideas which will help us to shape what IP Ability does in 2024 and beyond. These can generally be grouped into five areas:

–              Raising awareness and visibility of different disabilities and caring responsibilities;

–              Education on adjustments available, including for exams;

–              Networking / support groups;

–              Lobbying organisations, exam boards, training providers and event planners to be more inclusive; and

–              Improving accessibility to events.


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