Six key business reasons from XpertHR’s Good Practice Guide on Disability for creating a disability-confident workplace in 2019:
For organisations to thrive, they need to attract and retain talented staff and create a positive experience for them. An essential part of this is ensuring they are disability confident.
At the end of last year, the Government announced it is rolling out a new £40 million voluntary scheme[i] in England and Wales to help disabled people who are long-term unemployed get back into work.
The Intensive Personalised Employment Support programme aims to provide “highly personalised packages of employment support for people who are at least a year away from moving into work”, with the target of supporting 10,000 disabled people over four years[ii]. It’s all about giving people the skills and confidence to get back into the workplace. However, employers must also play a part in creating a welcoming environment for disabled people and must not discriminate.
Here are six key business reasons for creating a disability-confident workplace in 2019:
Organisations that are open to change and receptive to new ideas prosper
To develop new ideas, organisations need a workforce that can innovate, one that can draw on a range of perspectives and personal backgrounds, and one that reflects the societies they aim to serve. Employees with disabilities have often had to develop resourcefulness, creativity and the ability to look at situations differently to find solutions to manage their health condition. They are likely to bring these skills to the workplace, applying innovation and creativity when serving customers and drawing on their tenacity and resilience.
Companies benefit from employing people in roles that suit their skill set
Employers that genuinely want to recruit and retain the best people must concentrate on ability, rather than disability, to maximise talent pools and utilise key skills. For example, an individual with autism may have the core skills needed for a role that requires dedication to routine tasks and spotting anomalies in large amounts of data. By focusing on key skills and competencies, employers can minimise any bias and employ the best person for the job.
Many potential customers will have a disability or be disability aware
People with disabilities exercise choice about where they spend money and influence the spending patterns of their family and friends. It is estimated that one in three of the UK population has a disability or is close to someone who does – representing significant buying power. In fact, it’s been estimated by the Department of Work and Pensions[iii] that households with a disabled person have a combined income of £212 billion after housing costs.
Organisations that have the knowledge and skills to interact with individuals with disabilities will be in a good position to gain a larger percentage of this market. Those that employ people with disabilities are more likely to have the insight and knowledge about how to provide the products and services that customers with an interest in disability want.
Turnover of employees with disabilities is often low
Loyalty and commitment to their employer is common among employees with disabilities. In particular, organisations that create opportunities for people who have been out of work for some time due to a disability are likely to reap rewards, as such employees are often motivated and keen to contribute fully to their workplace.
The personal circumstances of staff change
According to the Business Disability Forum, an average of 2% of the working-age population develop a disability every year. The incidence of disability increases past age 45. With an ageing workforce it is inevitable that more employees will develop a disability during their career. This means that organisations risk losing experience and talent unless they adopt an ethos of retaining staff whose circumstances change, either personally or because they are affected by disability.
Minimising litigation and reputational risk
Employers that put in place adjustments for people with disabilities and other inclusive policies and practices also minimise the risk of disability discrimination claims, therefore potentially saving the organisation huge costs.
Successful employment claims made under the Equality Act 2010 have no upper ceiling on compensation and managers can spend a lot of time preparing for and attending an employment tribunal hearing. An employer’s reputation can also be negatively affected, impacting on the quality and motivation of future recruits and the engagement and productivity of existing staff.
In comparison, there can be a positive impact on productivity, motivation and loyalty if an employee feels that the organisation has worked with them to find solutions to alleviate any negative impact of a disability at work.
What steps can employers take?
It makes financial, operational and reputational sense for employers to take appropriate strategic and tactical actions on disability across the organisation. This includes taking positive steps to eliminate discrimination, including having effective policies for all aspects of organisational operations, including recruitment and talent management policies.
Policy alone, though, will not create equality of opportunity or an inclusive culture. Training for all staff, particularly line managers, will help them to understand the organisation’s underlying vision. This, alongside monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of policies, will translate the intent behind fair policies into inclusive practices and procedures across the organisation.
With strong leadership, effective management and robust policies, a firm foundation can be built from which an inclusive organisation can emerge, capable of providing a workplace that supports people with disabilities to be productive and fulfilled. An inclusive workplace culture will also mean that staff are better able to understand and serve customers with disabilities, which can be a competitive advantage.
XpertHR offers further guidance on disability in the workplace in their good practice guide on disability.