Disability Inclusion: what do you need to know?

Taking an inclusive approach to recruitment and retention will increase workplace opportunities for people with disabilities and expand your talent pool. So, what do you need to know?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

The number of people of working age with a disability has increased steadily. In 2022, it was estimated that 23% of working age adults had a disability. Yet, the disability employment gap means that a person with a disability is far less likely to have a degree, be employed or own their own home.

This includes ‘hidden’ disabilities that are sometimes overlooked. For example, hearing impairments, visual impairments, mental health conditions, neurodiversity, and non-visible health conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain or fatigue, respiratory conditions, IBS and incontinence.

Many employers are already open to benefits that disability inclusion can bring, both to their team and their business. However, there are some perceived obstacles such as the cost of modifying equipment or changing processes, and the need for greater flexibility.

These barriers can be addressed. There are resources such as the government’s Access to Work scheme that help fund changes to the workplace, equipment and support workers. Charitable organisations also provide support and resources – some relating to disability inclusion generally (e.g. AbilityNet, Inclusive Employers, Positive Work) and some relating to specific conditions (e.g. Deaf Action, RNIB). In addition, as employee expectations change, employers are having to think more flexibly about working hours and working from home.

There are also hidden obstacles – such as unconscious bias. It is important that employers and managers avoid making conscious or unconscious assumptions about a person’s capabilities based on appearance or a label or condition.

We need to train ourselves out of relying on these mental shortcuts. Even in cases where a manager has personal experience of an employee with a particular disability or condition, it is important to remember that no two people are the same and find out more about the individual’s skills, experience, abilities and needs.

How can you promote change?

  • Review your recruitment practices – make sure that you’re advertising vacancies widely to attract a larger and varied audience, actively encourage people with disabilities to apply and note that reasonable adjustments can be made.
  • Research your options – if you have a good candidate or an employee with a disability, find out more about what reasonable adjustments they may need to help them make a success of their role and research how you can provide these.
  • Consider how to improve your workplace to make it more inclusive and review where you can offer flexibility in hours and work location. Flexible working helps employees to manage their work time around their health needs, reduces stress and increases productivity.
  • Train your managers – make sure your management team knows how to identify when an individual may be struggling with something due to their health (remembering that disabilities are often hidden) and feel comfortable in raising and resolving that in a sensitive and supportive way.
  • Establish an open culture – remember that an employee may join you with a disability or develop a disability while working with you. They’re not obliged to disclose their disability to you. But, by creating an inclusive culture and encouraging open communication, they will feel safe to do so – enabling you to provide support from an early stage and enabling them to deliver their best work without barriers.

As always, if you would like some further guidance or support in relation to the topics covered in this article, please contact us.

Family Resources Survey: financial year 2021 to 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Attracting and hiring disabled candidates (businessdisabilityforum.org.uk)