Disabled People and Access to Employment
Disability can be a difficult topic to speak about especially when it comes to employment. Employers are often thinking about what are the best practices when employing someone with a disability. So in this blog, we are going to be speaking about the process of employing someone with a disability in three key areas, which are recruitment, employment and retention.
First of all, we are going to take a look at the definition of disability and the legislation around it.
What is a disability?
There are several types of disabilities, which can be broken down into categories.
These categories include:
Sensory – Vision and Hearing Impairment
Physical – Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes
Mental – Depression, Anxiety
Learning – Dyslexia, Dyscalculia
Just to confuse you there are also disabilities that overlap into different categories and also some individuals that also have multiple disabilities. Some people aren’t aware of this but certain long-term health conditions are also categorized as a disability.
As well as visible disabilities there are also invisible or hidden disabilities. These include for example depression, diabetes or HIV.
Legislation – The Equality Act 2010
In 2010 the Government passed legislation to protect disabled people from receiving discrimination from service providers and employers.
The Equality Act 2010 does not protect every person who has a disability and so the following definition should be applied:
‘’You are disabled under the ‘Equality Act 2010’ if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long term’ adverse effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’’
The Equality Act 2010 states that employers and service providers must make reasonable adjustments to prevent people with disabilities being put at a severe disadvantage.
So your now racking your brain thinking what is a reasonable adjustment?
In order to understand reasonable adjustments, it is easier to explain it in an example. If we take a large organisation who has an employee who utilises a wheelchair, a reasonable adjustment might be that the employer has step-free access however if the same employee was to work for a small off-license it might be reasonable for them to have a portable wheelchair ramp.
The term reasonable is one that is really hard to define. What people deem to be reasonable would be different to every single person. When looking at what reasonable adjustments should be made, how large the employer is would be taken into account. There is lots of information and resources out there to support organisations in ensuring they are implementing the correct reasonable adjustments as well as following the rules and best practice.
If you wish to seek further information on reasonable adjustments please click the link and it will take you to the government’s website where reasonable adjustments are explained further.
Centre for Resolution recently published a blog on The Equality Act and what disabilities are covered. Here is the link if you wish to read more ‘Is my disability covered by the equality act 2010?
Now we are going to look at the recruitment process and how to make this accessible for people with disabilities.
Is your recruitment process accessible?
When organisations look at the equality and diversity employment stats and figures, they may think why are we not able to recruit more people with disabilities?
I have the answer.
Your recruitment process may not be accessible. Many disabled people face multiple barriers before they even secure a job and there are many examples of this. My first example is inaccessible job adverts. When you scroll through Reed or Indeed, throughout lots of the job adverts there is a sentence that reads ‘You must hold a valid driving license.’ This isn’t technically true as many people with disabilities have access to a car and let’s say a personal assistant that has a driving license and access to a vehicle. An extra note is that someone with a disability may also be entitled to support for a driver funded by access to work.
My second example is that your advert may not be in an accessible format for someone with a disability to access it. It may be that a potential applicant may require the advert in a different format, for example, receiving the advert orally by the telephone or by receiving the job advert in an email, as this is usually a more accessible method for some disabled people.
Many job adverts have contact details listed at the bottom. Would this person named know enough information about the job role to be able to provide this information via the telephone if required?
Now let’s move onto the main event itself….the job interview.
The job interview also comes with many barriers for people with disabilities.
Remember we mentioned access to work before, well access to work can only be triggered when the individual has actually got the job. So this makes it difficult for some people with disabilities to be able to attend new areas/venues, they may be unable to arrange support from family members or friends or may have only seen the job advert at short notice in which they would not be able to arrange support.
There are many ways to overcome these barriers as we now have great face-to-face video calling like Facetime or Skype. Although you may feel you’re missing out on meeting the person physically you may gain much more by having disabled people in your workforce. So to make such a small change to the way in which we recruit could have a massive effect on the skills we have in a business.
Do you advertise your jobs on platforms like indeed or reed? You may only be accessing a certain demographic within a larger pool of skills. The best way to approach advertising is by using multiple platforms for job adverts. This can include social media, physical adverts or leaflets in Job Centres and Community Centres. Many of these platforms are free and so advertising the job doesn’t need to be costly.
Accessible recruitment isn’t just about physical access
Many people in the field of recruitment usually fixate on making the process accessible by step free access, lifts, hearing loops just to name a few. These adjustments are vital for some disabled people but we also need to take into account communication. This could be being aware of tones, not being patronising, maintaining eye contact and also looking in the candidate’s general direction when they are vision impaired. It is often the case that because the candidate has limited eyesight the interviewer doesn’t maintain eye contact. By treating everyone fairly will ensure you and the candidate will build better rapport.
There are many skills interviewers require, which are often not realised. When interviewing candidates, interviewers need to be aware of their own unconscious biases to ensure fair treatment for all.
Here are three top tips to ensure your job interview is accessible:
- Ensuring that job adverts are easily accessed by disabled people
- Use accessible locations to hold the job interview
- To hold yourself in the same way you would when interviewing someone who doesn’t have a disability
To find out more information about ensuring your recruitment process is accessible you may wish to take a look at our Disability Awareness Training.
There is lots of information on the internet about Access to Work but for your reference here is a link to the government’s website www.gov.uk/access-to-work.
To read more about The Equality Act 2010 you may wish to read our resource.
Now we have looked at inclusive recruitment we are now going to look at actually employing people with disabilities and things that employers can implement to support their employees.
When you have no experience or knowledge of disability, implementing reasonable adjustments for employees can be worrying. They don’t necessarily know where they can get the latest equipment or support that they need to ensure their employees are working to their full capacity. Many managers/employers do not know about the vast amount of solutions that are available and where to turn to ask for help.
The first thing any employer should do when they have a new employee with a disability is to activate a workplace assessment. A workplace assessor is an expert in a specific disability, for example, they could be an expert in dyslexia or vision impairment. The assessor would come to the workplace and would observe the employee who has a disability in their day-to-day role. The assessor would then be able to recommend effective solutions to enable the employee to work as well as they can. Effective solutions they may suggest could include computer software, ergonomic chairs and desks, or very small things such as lighting in the office. It can sometimes be the little solutions that make the biggest difference to ensuring a job is accessible for people with disabilities. Once the assessment has been completed the assessor would then send a report with a list of recommendations to the employer.
Are reasonable adjustments expensive?
When employers think of reasonable adjustments most would assume that they are going to be really expensive to implement. The truth is that the average cost of a reasonable adjustment is just £75.00 per employee. Most people are shocked when they find out how low this number actually is. There are of course exceptions where £75.00 just wouldn’t touch the sides but this would be where large amounts of equipment are required.
Your next question…funding
There is funding available to support employers with implementing adjustments that may be considered unreasonable to the employer.
As discussed above the government has a fantastic scheme that provides a discretionary fund, which can provide full or partial funding for support for employees with disabilities. The scheme is called Access to Work. The fund can cover lots of different types of support for example equipment, support workers and even job coaching.
Outside of Access to Work, there are some small things an employer can do to ensure they are supporting the employee as much as they can. When you employ people with disabilities you need to be flexible and practical. They don’t cost anything but make a huge difference to an individual with a disability. Things that could be considered are the frequency of breaks, scheduled days off, timings of shifts and also the duration of the shifts. For example, you may have an employee who has a condition that makes them more tired. You could implement more breaks to allow the individual to take a rest or that they could work their hours spread across more days.
There are a large number of benefits to an employer by ensuring your employees with disabilities have the correct support to enable them to work to their fullest potential. Firstly you are ensuring you are getting the best out of your employee, making sure that they are using their skill set to the fullest. You are also ensuring the workforce is happy. When there is a team member unable to meet their targets it would pull down the workforce, so ensuring effective support is in place is key. The largest benefit for your business is that by employing people with disabilities you are actually creating a more diverse workforce. You will have employees from a large number of skill sets who would all provide beneficial skills to your business.
There is a step before employment that we need to consider.
All employers have a trial or probation period for potential or new employees. We all know how a probation period works, the employee would have approximately 13 weeks probation before they gain the full contract for employment. Although there is a purpose for the probation/trial period it is actually another hurdle for employees with disabilities.
Access to Work that we spoke about above is just not that quick to implement. Realistically if an employer waits for access to work to provide funds for reasonable adjustments, the reasonable adjustments would not be implemented for a few months. Here’s where the issue is. If an individual’s reasonable adjustments have not been implemented in a trial or probation period, we are not giving the employee a fair chance at employment, as they are not at their fullest potential. There are two things you as an employer can do. The first one is to have a discussion with your new employee to see what elements of their role they can currently do without the equipment or to see if there are elements of other roles that they can do until they have their equipment. This should give the employer enough time to see their new employee in action and also gives the employee enough time to familiarise themselves with the team and surroundings. Or the second consideration is that we can keep in mind the person with a disability is not working at their fullest potential and this is to not be held against the individual.
Accessible working environment?
A key question for employers is your workplace accessible? What do we mean by this? Well is your workforce able to effectively communicate, do they know how best they could support colleagues with disabilities and do they have an understanding of disability?
Disability awareness training is an effective tool to enable colleagues to effectively support their disabled peers.
Disability awareness training can be implemented before you have employed people with disabilities or once you have employed someone with a disability.
Not just visible disabilities
There are many managers, CEOs, and colleagues who feel they don’t have anyone with a disability working in their organisation. There was a study carried out in America, which showed that 74% of the disabled population had a hidden or invisible disability. There isn’t a study like this that has been carried out in the UK, however, there is the statistic of 1 in 4 people have a disability. The reliability of these statistics are unsure as lots of people are unaware that their condition is classified as a disability and there are also some individuals who do not wish to disclose they have a disability. So if we take that statistic it would mean that at least a quarter of the workforce has a disability.
A long bumpy journey to employment
There are lots of benefits of employing people with disabilities for you as an employer and for the organisation. It is key to bear in mind that the individual with a disability may have had multiple barriers to cross before they become employed. Because of this reason, people with disabilities are appreciative of their job and are consistent hard workers to ensure they keep their job. They are also great problem solvers because they face barriers in their day-to-day life and so naturally overcome them.
There are many untapped skill sets in the world of disability, for example, people with Autism are generally factual, have high levels of concentration and have many technical abilities. By having this wide variety of skills in your business would create a very diverse workforce which means your business will have the skills it needs to be successful.
When an individual faces barriers in employment, usually this would create barriers for the whole team.
Internal or external support for employees with disabilities
Some organisations are already considering alternative ways to support their employees. This could be for example counselling services, whether it is in house or signposting to external providers, generic workplace coaching or sourcing the best technology to ensure our employees are at their maximum productivity. Some organisations stop at this level of support and don’t strive to do more.
I have always wondered why?
If we need to upgrade our computers to ensure maximum performance it is not something that we would hesitate to do. However, when it comes to engaging with specialists that understand the world of disability, some organisations don’t see the benefits of utilizing this type of support. More often than not it is not even something they have considered. Take two examples of specialist mediation and specialist coaching. If you have an employee who has a dispute in the workplace around their disability, then an expert with a conflict resolution and disability background would be best placed to find a resolution. Similarly with specialist coaching, if organisations were to use generic workplace coaching for their disabled employees they may not get the results they wanted. By using a specialist disability coach the employee would be able to explore their limitations rather than focusing on explaining their disability.
An expert in disability would be aware of the solutions and the potential barriers and would also have a natural empathy for those they support, as it is the area that they work in and understand. Likewise, with internal disputes, some firms may use an internal resource or reach out to an external provider. If you are going to invest in using a resource to resolve internal conflicts or support with better communication, why not reach out to a specialist who understands disability within the mediation field. Centre for Resolution offers a range of mediation Worcester services which you can find out more about on our website.
Reviews are an ongoing process for all employees. Maybe with your colleagues who have disabilities having reviews more often would be beneficial for all. Colleagues with disabilities would be able to talk about issues they may be facing in regards to their disability whilst at work and also provides the colleague with a natural opportunity to discuss their feelings. Some disabled people have a lot of pride and do not wish to ask for support whilst on the other hand, some disabled people do not wish to raise that there is an issue with their work in regards to disability, as they fear they will lose their job.
The fact that you and your employee are having regular reviews will help to build trust and rapport and ultimately a stronger relationship going forward for example if the employee with a disability is struggling to carry out their full job role rather than them giving up and thinking oh I can’t do this anymore, they may actually come to you for your support. This would then, in turn, mean the employee would keep their job because they have the support to enable them.
There are additional benefits to retaining your employees with disabilities. Cost is a huge one. Training new members of staff can cost organisations thousands of pounds not to mention you are losing a wealth of experience by not retaining your employees with disabilities. There is also the pain that comes with recruiting and training a new person to get them to the speed of an already existing employee.
The need for on-going training
My final point in this blog is on-going disability awareness training. Often organisations think we’ve done it once we don’t need it again but actually this is very far from the truth. On-going disability awareness training is vital to ensure employees are supported. In the disability sector, there are usually lots of changes to legislation, new ideas for reasonable adjustments or changes to terminology that usually organisations miss. However, this is the very reason that we suggest organisations have ongoing disability awareness training.
We are going to leave you with one final thought. Inclusivity is about inclusion for everybody and by doing so you exclude nobody.
So that about wraps it up. We really do hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. If you have any questions regarding any of the information or you need support with a colleague/s who have disabilities please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We have also written another blog about workplace discrimination and disability awareness training if you would like to read more click here.
Phone: 01905 330055