Disabled people face many barriers, both in recruitment and in the workplace. Especially amid the current pandemic, there is significant risk that employers intensify this through lack of consideration and proactive policy when reopening. We ran our second Equality Issues Supporters Network Webinar on this topic, where we equipped Supporters with the knowledge to properly support disabled people in their workforce during this time and moving forward. The key points from the event are explored below, alongside a list of essential resources and the full video recording.
Be willing to adapt.
Many employers will have disabled people in the workforce, without necessarily realising all who are affected. For example, just 5% of disabled people are wheelchair users, whereas 1 in 5 have an impairment and 1 in 6 suffer from mental health conditions. Disabilities that are not visible may not be communicated to employers, with fears surrounding how their employment will be impacted. Similarly, the assumption that workplace adjustments will be time consuming, expensive and difficult to implement creates barriers for many disabled people in the workplace as they don’t feel support from employers regarding these potential adjustment conversations.
In reality, just 3.1% of disabled people claim that physical inaccessibility is a barrier to the workplace for them, whereas 40% claim that rigid working hours can discourage them from entering work. Measures like flexible working hours can be implemented with no great expense or changes made to the workplace, yet they could encourage and support a more diverse workforce.
Focus on the impact of their disability.
Strengthening the dialogue between employer and employees reduces potential disputes, and opens up the potential for employees to make clear any potential adjustments that could enable them to work at their best ability.
A conversation which is focused solely on the impact of the disability on the employee’s day-to-day work could be the right approach for this. Unless they feel comfortable to share further information, asking about the nature or cause of the disability is not necessary to explore. Keeping the conversations on this level may make employees more willing to speak up, ensuring they are well equipped with the reasonable adjustments to do their job.
Assess what more could be done in your organisation.
The Disability Confident scheme is one way that employers can improve the workplace environment for disabled people. It supports employers to make the most of the talents that disabled people can bring to the workplace. This is a valuable tool when employers ensure they are motivated to progress ahead of Level 1 where intent is declared, onto Level 2 and 3 where change regarding accessibility and inclusion is implemented.
The reporting of inequalities in the workplace is on the rise, evidenced by the gender pay gap reporting which has seen nationwide progress over recent years. However, at the beginning of the pandemic this reporting was paused. Ensuring that we reopen these conversations across the spectrum of inequalities is important, as looking inwards and assessing where change can be made is a vital step. Monitoring disability inclusion across organisations may help to tackle key issues, for example the problem of disabled people being disproportionately in low-paid and entry-level work. However, whilst this data is important, the conversations need to come first. This is particularly important as we enter the reopening phase, and begin to understand measures that will need to be taken to ensure everyone can return to the workplace safe, healthy and supported.
Kate Headley, Director at The Clear Company
Lee Jefcott, Partner at Brabners
Michele Scattergood, Chief Executive at Breakthrough UK
James Williams, Group Transformation Lead at Lloyds Banking Group
- Breakthrough UK Slide Deck: Key challenges disabled people face to accessing good work
- Phil Friend: Why are you pretending to be normal? (2013)
- Lloyds Banking Group: Supporting Colleagues with Disabilities
- The Clear Company: Resources
- Breakthrough UK: Employment, Training & Volunteering page
- Brabners: Covid-19 support and Business support measures