UCL Research Domains


Annual Debate 2023

Our Annual Debates are generously supported by Sage

6pm-7pm, Tuesday, 4 July 2023 
The fragile worker: stigma, illness and disability in the contemporary [western] workplace
Dr.Jennifer Remnant, Lecturer B, Work, Employment And Organisation, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde
Cruciform Lecture Theatre, LT1, Basement, Cruciform Building, UCL, Gower Street, London, WCIE 6BT

Why do some disabled people opt not to disclose their diagnoses or symptoms to their employers and choose not to access workplace support? What lies beneath these choices and what are the workplace implications?

Unruly bodies challenge social order. Perhaps they don’t look, feel or behave like other people’s bodies or we think in unusual ways that are apparent to others. When we think that our bodies, or the bodies of others, do something they should not we are conditioned to feel disgust, shame and humiliation: feelings that are founded on historical prejudices and stereotypes aimed at disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. In the workplace such prejudices can lead employers to assume that disabled people are not capable of high-quality work, that they will frequently be absent, or worse, employers may not believe or accept employee’s health or impairment status. These experiences are increasingly compounded in a workforce defined by precarity and recovering from the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns.

In this talk I will reflect on the fragility of the disabled worker in this context, a fragility that does not relate to their impairment effects or symptoms, but instead, the insecurity of their engagement and progression at work. Developing a contemporary framing of economic fragility and its relationship to societal stigma, I will draw on research focusing on the experiences of workers with long-term conditions and disability (including pain, fatigue, and fluctuation) challenging dated theorising, and examining workplace relations and negotiations of legitimacy, deservingness, and performance.

Dr Kelly Fagan Robinson, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Professor Imran Rasul, Professor of Economics, Economics, UCL)

Professor Kerstin Sailer, Professor in the Sociology of Architecture, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Welcome and introduction
Professor Carey Jewitt, Chair, UCL Collaborative Social Science Domain / Professor of Learning and Technology, Knowledge Lab, Culture, Communication & Media, IOE, UCL

  • Three UCL researchers (tbc) will give brief responses from their own disciplinary interest in fragility in response to Jennifer Remnant’s lecture

UCL Collaborative Social Science Domain Annual Early Career Seminar
10am to 12.30pm, Wednesday, 5 July 2023 followed by a sandwich lunch

The fragile worker: how do we explore issues of stigma, illness and disability in our research?
Daryll Forde Seminar Room (Room 230), 2nd Floor, Dept of Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW
Please note: This seminar is only open to UCL PhD students and post-doctoral researchers
Further details and registration

About Jen Remnant
Jen Remnant is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Strathclyde Business School and is based in the Scottish Centre for Employment Research. Her work focuses on the management of ill-health, long-term symptoms and impairment at work. She is interested in how managers make decisions about the provision, lack of, or withdrawal of workplace support for disabled employees, the drivers of the disability employment gap and the theoretical meetings points of medical sociology, the sociology of work and disability studies. Jen publishes across disciplines and translates her work into research-led consultancy focused on Equality Diversity and Inclusion training for employing organisations.