Guest blog by Kate Headley, the Clear Company
It’s positive to see that disability confidence has become increasingly important to organisations of all shapes and sizes in recent years, and it’s also particularly encouraging that a greater number of employers now understand the importance of fostering inclusive recruitment practices. However, recent research shows there is some way to go.
58% of disabled workers fear losing their job
New research from disability charity, Scope found that 58% of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their impairment. It is clear that employers need to continue to work towards offering continued personalised employment support to in order to ensure they retain highly valuable disabled talent.
While the significant progress being made by many industry leading organisations is illustrative of a positive shift towards a far greater understanding of the benefits of a diverse workforce, it is evident that more still needs to be done to create and crucially, retain, a truly inclusive workforce.
Only 6% of adults with a learning disability are in employment, but 65% are available to work
Almost one in five people in the UK have a disability, yet just over 4.1 million disabled people are in employment, representing just 46.5% of the disabled population, compared to 84% of non-disabled figures.
Worryingly, for people with a learning disability this figure plummets to just 6%. In fact, even despite more than 65% of people with a learning difficulty wanting to, and being able to, be in work this figure has declined in recent years from 7% in 2014 according to learning disability charity Mencap. People with learning disabilities, encounter a greater number of barriers to employment, and many employers may be unsure about how to implement personalised adjustments to ensure that their recruitment process is inclusive to people with disabilities such as autism, or downs syndrome.
Adjustments are normally simple and affordable
With World Downs Syndrome Day taking place this week and World Autism Awareness Week beginning at the end of the month, and the benefits of employing people with a disability clear, there’s no better time to highlight the need for more personalised employment support, through reasonable adjustments and the Access to Work scheme.
The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) award winner Remploy, notes that adjustments required to provide inclusive working environments are often simple, requiring minimal financial investment. Remploy recommends providing clear, straightforward instructions – possibly in a pictorial format, colour coding of products or tasks, and check they are understood; avoiding giving multiple instructions and communicating changes to routine as soon as possible.
The hidden benefits of a disabled workforce
Employers who have given a disabled candidate an opportunity are often surprised by the benefits they bring.
For example, according to Mencap, people with Down’s syndrome generally have lower sickness levels, stay with an employer longer and can have a positive impact on colleagues. By becoming inclusive to candidates with a learning disability, employers can access pools of talent they are unlikely to have been able previously. While many employers are anxious about employing people with Down’s syndrome, initiatives such as the Down’s Syndrome Association’s WorkFit, aim to connect employers with candidates and can help provide support to employers who may be unsure of how to create a recruitment process which is inclusive to individuals with learning difficulties.
One in 5 disabled workers turned down for ‘reasonable adjustment’ requests
Concerningly, research from Scope, which polled 216 working age disabled adults in employment in England, also suggested that there is a real need for continued employment support in order to retain disabled talent and foster a truly diverse workforce. The research also found that one in five disabled workers have had a request for a reasonable adjustment rejected by their employer. The fact that 20% of disabled people surveyed had requested support, but their employer didn’t provide it for them, is shocking. Aside from the fact that that these businesses are failing to fulfil their legal obligation in not supporting their employees through reasonable adjustments, they also risk losing vital skills as disengaged staff take their expertise elsewhere.
It is becoming increasingly clear that HR departments need vital support in implementing reasonable adjustments if they are to enjoy the benefits of an engaged, strong and diverse workforce. Although some may be daunted by the prospect of managing the needs of disabled employees, particularly those with learning disabilities – perhaps because of a fear of getting it ‘wrong’ – the business benefits of addressing the needs of disabled colleagues are undisputable.
About the author
A nationally-recognised expert and auditor in diversity in recruitment, Kate Headley works extensively with government & business in developing inclusive best practice.
She is a fully qualified HR professional who, following an early career in the private sector (Marks & Spencer) and the public sector (Manchester City Council) has spent over 15 years specialising in recruitment and diversity. Her passion and expertise in this area means that she is a sought-after speaker and advisor, helping to spread the word of the benefits of being diversity-confident to UK plc.
Kate is a key member of The Department of Work and Pensions Disability Employer Engagement Steering Group and is currently helping to create a platform for individual MPs to activate and support diversity best practice in their constituencies.