Knowledge is Power: Improving inclusion through awareness

Melanie Forbes
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This is a guest post by Morgan Lobb, CEO at DiversityJobs.co.uk.

Increasing the inclusion of disabled talent in the workplace is high on the agenda of not just Government, but also a growing number of organisations and, most recently, the media.

Channel 4 has recently announced it is offering £1m in free TV advertising space to a campaign featuring disabled talent as part of its ‘Year of Disability’. TV programmes, such as Dispatches: The Great British Benefits Row, have catapulted the practical issues facing disabled people into the limelight while BBC 2’s Employable Me has offered audiences the opportunity to glimpse the wealth of talent that disabled jobseekers can offer.

Meanwhile, a recently published House of Lords report, which focuses on what more can be done by employers, public bodies and service providers to address the needs of disabled people across the UK, has suggested that communication and engagement with disabled people must be improved to significantly increase the chances of meeting their needs more effectively. A recommendation that we at Diversity Jobs whole-heartedly support.

Engagement shouldn’t be focused on disabled people alone.

We know that sharing data, experiences, advice and individual case-studies is key to unlocking the potential of the disabled community. However, unlike the Select Committee, we believe engagement shouldn’t be focused on disabled people alone. If we are to have any great impact in increasing the inclusion of disabled talent, we must share our stories with the wider recruitment supply chain.

While the Government's Access To Work scheme has made great strides in reducing the disabled employment gap, we understand that it cannot work in silo. Business leaders, HR teams and recruitment professionals must actively engage with each other and third party organisations to determine what is blocking the disabled talent pipeline – and how we can unclog it.

©depositphotos.com/Amaviael
©depositphotos.com/Amaviael

There are estimated to be 11.6 million disabled people in the UK, of whom 5.7 million are working age adults. Of these, recent statistics indicate that only 46 per cent are in employment, compared to 76 per cent of people without a disability.

While the reasons behind the disability employment gap are deep and complex, much of this disparity may be simply attributed to a lack of awareness and understanding amongst the wider business community.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that while employers rely on recruiters to identify disabled candidates, many in the staffing sector are afraid of getting it ‘wrong’, or simply don’t know how to reach disabled talent pools.   

Recruitment concerns

To add to this ambiguity, many disabled professionals decide not to disclose their status to future or current employers. In fact, according to figures released earlier this year by GreatWithDisability.com, over three quarters of students and graduates with a disability are concerned about being open about their condition.

Just 3% of disabled people say their condition does not hamper their chances of finding a job

This is unsurprising when you consider that, according to data from the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI), just three per cent of disabled people say their condition does not hamper their chances of finding a job and more than one in three disabled jobseekers have been discriminated against during the recruitment process. Clearly we have a lot to learn.

Surely, the only answer to dispelling the myths surrounding disability and mystery in dealing with disabled workers is communication. In my experience, success lies in collaboration and the more we create and share insight focused on disability, the greater our collective knowledge base will be. 

Online resources

Data from Diversity Jobs’ annual report offers some insight into the appetite for information on diversity-led content. In 2015 thebigIDEA.co.uk, a digital platform for employers to showcase their activity on diversity, racked up almost two million page views.

The site covers D&I issues as diverse as race and age to maternity rights. Disability-led content was the second most read topic stream, only surpassed by gender-specific news. Proof indeed that there is a genuine need for intelligence in this area.

With this in mind, I would urge all HR Directors with experience in managing disability in the workplace to share their stories with not only their senior leadership teams, wider workforce and recruitment partners, but also wider audiences. Even the smallest observations or success in tackling barriers could prove inspirational to others as we work together to close the disability employment gap.

I would also encourage HR professionals to visit the RIDI website where the case studies of previous RIDI Award winners show that you don’t necessarily have to make monumental changes to have a huge impact on inclusion.

The 2016 RIDI Awards are open for submissions until the 19th September – the awards are free to enter and attend.    

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