Three ways employers can be more disability friendly

According to the 2017 Labour Force survey, people with disabilities in the UK are twice as likely to be unemployed as their able-bodied counterparts.

In this article you will learn:

  • Why employers need to do more to encourage disabled people into the workplace
  • What employers can change to make disabled people welcome in their workplace
  • The impact culture has on people with disabilities in the workplace

The UK’s 2010 Equality Act lays out serious penalties for discriminating against people for any personal characteristics, including disabilities. It puts the onus on employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable and encourage people with disabilities in the workplace. Given that 91 per cent of SMEs in the UK say that their office buildings do not have a lift, there’s clearly some work to do but how can employers make their workplace more disability friendly?

1. Build awareness and invest in training

One of the first steps in making a workplace more accessible to people with disabilities is to educate existing employees. Making employees aware of the organisation’s commitment to disabled people helps those with disabilities to properly integrate into the workforce.

Training can also be helpful to eliminate any unconscious biases that employees may hold that could, for example, lead to them being more lenient when it comes to appraisals. While this leniency may appear to be an advantage, it actually can hold people back and prevent them from reaching their full potential in a role.

2. Adjust the workplace

While the UK’s 2010 Equality Act says that ‘reasonable adjustments’ should be made to workplaces to enable disabled people access that doesn’t have to mean a serious re-modelling of your office space.

“Many disabled people may need nothing more than a little understanding. For example, an employee with a bowel condition may need slightly longer comfort breaks. Similarly, a person with diabetes could need privacy several times a day to administer their insulin. There are an infinite number of small adjustments you may need to make to attract and retain your best people – it’s just up to you to ask the question,” says Kate Headley, chair of the Recruitment Industry Disability Index.

3. Allow flexible working

Flexible working is often heralded as a lifesaver for working parents, but for people with disabilities it can also have a significant impact on their ability to perform well and succeed in a job.

Simply allowing employees – disabled or not – to work from wherever they like can increase their productivity and their wellbeing. But for people with disabilities it can enable them to continue with their work when they don’t feel well enough, for whatever reason, to commute into the office, or to take longer breaks if they require them.

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