Board buy-in is key to closing employment gap for disabled people in workplace

Get board buy-in is key to improving disabled people's access to work

There continues to be a significant gap between the employment rate of disabled people and the rest of the population; according to the Office for National Statistics, just 49 percent of disabled people of working age are in employment. This is why getting genuine buy-in from the top is key to improving levels of disability disclosure and helping to facilitate requests for workplace adjustments. That was the conclusion of a recent round table hosted by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) which also found that while some HR and diversity specialists are sceptical about the level of support available from senior leadership teams, once the topic is brought to the attention of the board, the response is often overwhelmingly positive. Practical ways in which leaders can bolster disability initiatives shared at the event include; identifying disability champions within the business who can communicate their own stories, implementing unconscious bias training, instigating & reverse-mentoring initiatives where senior managers are partnered with disabled colleagues and leading by example by being open about their own disabilities.

Following the event, which was hosted by HS2 Ltd and attended by a diverse mix of representatives from private and public sector organisations including Morgan McKinley, Kelly Services, the Clear Company, DWF, Guidant Group, and the REC; Mark Lomas, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at HS2 Ltd, commented:

“The overwhelming consensus on the day was that the level of confidence around disability within an organisation is greater if it’s coming down from up high. At HS2 Ltd, for example, a letter from the CEO, delivered direct to the inboxes of employees was instrumental in boosting participation in a programme designed to ascertain workplace adjustment needs, with 75 percent of employees without a current DSE assessment completing a Clear Talents profile within 72 hours.”

“However, it is essential that leaders approach disability with purpose, authenticity and trust. Success lies in creating and fostering a culture of trust so that all stakeholders, including senior leaders, feel comfortable asking questions and seeking solutions.”

Kate Headley, Director at the Clear Company and spokesperson for RIDI, added: “It is natural to have a fear of the unknown, but leaders can have a positive impact on disability inclusion by not being afraid to ask questions, being visible in their support of the disability agenda and learning from others, both internally and externally.”

“Senior executives should seek out success stories within their own organisation, and use these as a tool to help boost disclosure during recruitment. As our panel highlighted, making adjustments for people who return to work after acquiring a disability is rarely an issue and technology is constantly enabling more people to do a wider variety of jobs.”