Disability is everyone’s good business

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The business case for halving the disability employment gap

It’s easy to think of disability as black and white, as us and them. In fact, one in four people have some form of disability. The reality is that disability is a part of everyone’s life whether this means friends, family or colleagues, and any of us can become disabled at any time. Disability is everyone’s business.

The Government recognised this recently when, as part of its Disability Confident campaign, it made a commitment to halve the disability employment gap. That’s the difference between the percentage of people with disabilities who are in work and that of the working age population as a whole. That difference is currently around 33%.

To achieve this ambition – in other words to close the gap – will mean one million additional people with a disability or a health condition in work.

Pretty much everyone agrees that this would be a good thing – for the individuals themselves, for taxpayers, for all of us. Research by the Social Market Foundation indicates that achieving the goal would boost the economy by £13 billion.

But the people it would be even better news for would be… employers. With 1.3 million disabled people in the UK looking for work, it is in the best interest of every business to make the most of this extensive pool of high-quality candidates.

There’s a mountain of evidence that workers with a disability are at least, if not more, productive and reliable than their non-disabled colleagues. And from Pluss’ experience, disabled employees also bring into businesses those attributes that they’ve needed to develop in their everyday lives. And which businesses don’t need an abundance of resilience and problem solving in the workplace?

People with disabilities demonstrate more loyalty to their employer and are less likely to job hop. Most people find working alongside colleagues with a disability a rewarding experience, one that is likely to improve any business’s bottom line. And having a workforce that is representative of a company’s customer-base will itself bring benefits.

So here’s some straightforward things any company can do.

  • Judge candidates on what they can do, not on what they can’t. If Richard Branson came calling with a business idea, would you reject him because he’s dyslexic?
  • Help staff become Disability Confident – for example by posting case studies, tips and advice on the company website or noticeboard. It’s good for people at work to talk more about issues like dyslexia, mental health and autism.
  • Develop a more inclusive recruitment policy, one that is flexible enough to include some innovative routes into employment for people with a range of disabilities and health conditions – things like work tasters and working interviews.
  • Make sure it’s a recruitment system that really can create a workforce that accurately reflects the diversity of the company’s customer base, one that is capable of bringing a different perspective to the business. More than 360 employers, including 14 local authorities and 99 organisations in the public sector who support Disability Confident, have already done this. 
  • If you’re not sure about the best place to start, the Disability Confident campaign on the internet and in your region offers some really good ideas to raise awareness and challenge perceptions.
  • And you can always talk to Pluss. We love hearing from employers and we’re always happy to help.

Being Disability Confident starts with the recognition that all employees need support that is unique to them. Every one of us is different, and supporting a disabled employee should be no more than an extension of this good business maxim.

The changes employers might need to make to support dedicated disabled employees are frequently tiny. And almost always, those changes are worth the investment. 

In the end, people who invest wisely are business confident. And people who are business confident are increasingly Disability Confident.