It’s widely recognised that a diverse workforce has many benefits, boosting creativity, productivity and enhancing the brand image of companies, yet recent Gov research reveals that disability inequality is still widespread in the workplace with half of the businesses surveyed stating that it was easier to recruit non-disabled candidates than those with a disability.
Other studies show that people with disabilities apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled candidates. Just 51% of those job applications resulted in an interview compared with 69% of non-disabled applicants. Clearly, this demonstrates a very real disability employment crisis in the UK workplace.
Certainly, figures show that the disability employment gap – the rate at which disabled people are employed compared to non-disabled people – hasn’t changed for more than a decade.
Inequality in the workplace
Companies need to realise, with the current talent shortage, the answer to their recruitment problems lies is targeting people with disabilities. Studies have shown that those who do see an increase in retention of up to 90%, a 72% increase in employee productivity and a 45% increase in workplace safety.
So why is it employers don’t recruit more disabled staff?
Some experts believe that much of the problem lies with inexperienced hiring managers who assume disabled candidates can’t do the job, instead of looking at the positives they can bring to the organisation. Hirers are also afraid of falling foul of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities in the workplace, and, of course, not discriminate against job seekers with disabilities.
This isn’t the only problem for disabled job seekers. When they do find work, they are often paid less than their non-disabled colleagues.
Making a difference for those working with a disability
Some companies are trying to tackle the issue. Virgin Media is one such company. Working with disability charity, Scope, the British Paralympic Association and Valuable 500, an organisation that seeks to get disability issues aired at boardroom level of 500 global companies, Virgin Media was able to make changes to their internal policies, and provide training to staff so they are better equipped to understand the issues faced by disabled people. There are now people with disabilities working throughout the organisation.
In conjunction with Scope, the company also launched the WorkWithMe initiative, a call to action for UK businesses to come together and create an environment that welcomes disabled people into the workforce. 50 companies have signed up including Centrica, Phillips, and JCB.
Once employers begin realising the benefits to be gained from hiring disabled workers, more should follow suit. There is already a growing range of resources that can help improve workplace accessibility. Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one new technology that is providing more opportunities for disabled workers to enter the workforce.
Employers need to focus on hiring a talented, diverse, workforce in order to compete in a marketplace that is also diverse. By being proactive and taking steps to understand the solutions out there for integrating individuals with disabilities into the workforce, recruiters can plug the vital gaps in recruitment, comply with employment law and create a fair and equitable workplace.
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