The solution to getting more disabled people into work? Why we all need to hire one in a million

I have previously written on the government’s ambition to halve the disabled employment gap, and how the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) is supporting this goal.

When you consider that there are now 365,000 more disabled people in work compared with 2014, there is no doubt that we are moving in the right direction. However, there is still a huge gap between the employment rate of disabled people and the rest of the population. According to the latest official statistics, just 47 per cent of people with disabilities of working age were in employment between October and December 2015. Among non-disabled people, this figure stood at 80 per cent. In order to meet its election pledge, the government would need to increase the employment rate among people with disabilities to 62.8 per cent by 2020. This equates to 1.12 million more people finding employment in the next four years – a figure which, in reality, is close to unobtainable without the support of HR, recruitment and wider business functions.

A recent study by the Learning and Work Institute (LWI) found that, due to increasing overall employment levels, the disability employment gap has decreased by only 0.1 per cent since the 2015 election. Yes, hundreds of thousands more disabled people are now in work. But to reach the government’s 2020 target would take 200 years at the current rate of progress. We need a monumental shift in approach.

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Last month, RIDI held an event at the House of Commons - which was kindly sponsored by Eversheds and hosted with the support of Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East - where attendees debated the motion that the recruitment industry must drive radical change from within if we are to reach our shared target.

I was incredibly proud to be invited to be a guest speakers on the day alongside Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s and Naeema Choudry, Partner at Eversheds. I shared my firm belief that lasting change is only possible through collaboration - recruiters and employers must work in synergy to increase the inclusion of disabled talent.

Having been in the recruitment industry for over 25 years and outsourcing for the past 15 years, I have become familiar with clients telling me that supply partners do not put forward disabled talent. When I speak to our supply partners they tell me that even if they did, our clients would not hire them. Somewhere in the middle of this I believe lies the truth.

We cannot create a chain of change alone. This is about collaboration, confidence and commitment. This is not solely the recruitment industry’s problem to fix. It is every employer, across every sector, across the country’s challenge to overcome. While it may seem like a daunting task to help over a million disabled people into work – we can do it, but we have to work together. Which is why RIDI is launching its One in a Million campaign.

The UK is home to over four million private sector businesses, not to mention public and third sector organisations. If each of these hires just one disabled person in the next four years, we’d smash through our target. From a HR perspective, disabled talent is a highly skilled under-represented talent group. Tapping into this pool doesn’t just have a positive impact on your company’s bottom line – it also genuinely changes lives. Over three quarters of senior professionals and recruitment leaders who attended the RIDI event pledged to hire at least one disabled candidate in the next three to five years on the day - and this is just the start.

Could your organisation be part of the solution and bring on board One in a Million?

If you are already making steps towards increasing the inclusion of disabled talent don’t keep quiet about it share your story today by entering the RIDI Awards.

Submissions close on the 19th of September and the awards are free to both enter and attend. 

About Melanie Forbes

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