In the UK, only 49.6% of disabled people have a job compared to 80.4% of non-disabled people. That’s a big loophole. Much progress has been made in recent years – more than 300,000 disabled people moved to work in the last year alone – but there is clearly a long way to go.
Recruitment is a problem – recent research shows that only 8% of UK businesses employed a disabled person in a single year. One reason for this could be a lack of trust in the support. But often only a few adjustments are required. SoloProtect, a Sheffield company that provides security and support to lone workers, made a conscious decision to change its hiring process to attract more disabled candidates.
One employee who has benefited from this is Keli Ashby, who has a visual impairment. She says, “I was thrilled to join the team. I didn’t think I’d find a place somewhere that I really enjoy working. I do not go anywhere.’ Sarah Mackie, Human Resources Manager at SoloProtect, says, “By giving our disabled employees just a little extra support, we get more morale and more loyalty and loyalty, which means the company gets higher profits. I would thoroughly encourage employers to hire disabled people – it’s a lot easier than you might think. ‘
The government hopes to be as positive about hiring disabled workers as SoloProtect is in running its Disability Confident program to all companies, but recognizes that employers may have misconceptions about what this would mean for them. The program aims to encourage employers to open up their workforce and ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities in their workplace as non-disabled people.
Challenging misunderstandings is a big part of it. Disability is a broad term; Less than 10% of disabled people are in wheelchairs, and many disabilities are “invisible” – for example mental illnesses.
Steve Loft, a manager at Transport for London, was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder following a traumatic life event. He took three months off and his supervisor, Ian Buswell, gave him all the help and support he needed. “I realized that this could happen to anyone,” says Buswell. “If it were me, I would want someone to give me a chance to get through.” Loft appreciated that Buswell kept in touch: “He had confidence in me, even if I didn’t do it myself. Now i’m back I can only pay him back if I work hard for him. ‘
Over 7 million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have some health condition. Anyone of us could have a disability tomorrow – in fact, 83% of people acquire their disability while at work. If employers want to keep loyal, hardworking employees while improving their talent pool and brand reputation, now is the time to create an inclusive workplace.
Almost 4,000 companies have already signed up for Disability Confident. Click here to join them
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