There are one million disabled people in the UK who would like to work, but are not given the opportunity by many businesses. YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, recently conducted research focusing on HR decision-makers, which revealed that many businesses are contributing to a disability employment crisis due to outdated beliefs and an unwillingness to tackle the issue.
The survey found that:
- 41% say their company’s board of directors never or rarely discuss disability
- 56% believe the main reason disabled people don’t get jobs is because they lack the right skills or qualifications
- 11% think disabled people should accept lower paid positions
- 26% claim that they have never had a disabled candidate for a job interview
In order to tackle these issues, Virgin Media and Scope launched the #WorkWithMe pledge with the aim to help improve workplace practices, and provide support to disabled people to gain relevant skills and confidence to get a job or stay in work.
The three-year campaign which is aimed at large and small businesses was launched in 2017 and to date 19 companies from a range of sectors, including Philips and JCB, have joined the pledge to share their experiences and best practice with other businesses. Jonathan Coles, Head of HR at Philips UKI, said, “Over the years we have heard many reasons disabled candidates don’t apply for jobs” as they believe that employers may not “value their skills or are not set up to accommodate physical conditions”. This is the reason why they signed up for the pledge as they “believe organisations can and should do more to share best practices about how to integrate talent regardless of physical, mental or learning abilities”.
The pledge is free and consists of a five-step plan for businesses to take responsibility and receive advice on how to improve the workplace for disabled people in terms of policies, practices and culture.
Key elements of the pledge include:
- Senior leaders taking accountability for disability inclusion
- Providing guidance on implementing and managing reasonable adjustments
- Promoting a positive culture around disability and celebrate disability inclusion in the work place
- Collecting relevant data from within the organisation and collaborating with other businesses to share good practice
Disability is one of nine “protected characteristics” covered by the Equality Act 2010, and the Act protects many individuals within the field of employment, occupation and vocational training against disability discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Not only does it protect those “in employment”, but it also protects job applicants.
Section 39 and 40 of the Act sets out the circumstances in which discrimination against a job applicant or employee will be unlawful:
An employer (A) must not discriminate against or victimise a person (B):
- In the arrangements A makes for deciding to whom to offer employment
- As to the terms on which A offers B employment
- By not offering B employment
An employer is also obliged to make reasonable adjustments to remove or reduce the detrimental or disadvantage effect on a disabled employee of a particular provision, criterion or practice (PCP) used by the employer which is rolled out on a blanket basis across the staff. This anti-discrimination protection is unique to the protected characteristic of disability. Where the duty arises, the disabled person must be treated more favourably than others by the employer in an attempt to reduce or remove the individual’s disadvantage arising from the PCP.
This duty also arises for potential job applicants. However an employer is not obliged to make reasonable adjustments to premises or interview processes in anticipation that a disabled person may apply for a job, but should be carried out as and when is required.
So, we believe that the #WorkWithMe campaign is an effective way to promote and celebrate disability inclusion in the workplace. It considers the needs of a disabled person and highlights the fact that all should be treated equally within the workplace. It also ensures that employers comply with the Equality Act 2010 in terms of offering employment and implementing reasonable adjustments, which can also assist in the reduction of disability discrimination claims.