Virgin Media and the disability equality charity Scope are calling on businesses to take urgent action and pledge to tackle the UK’s disability employment crisis.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to work but are not being given the opportunity. And new YouGov research reveals that businesses are creating this disability crisis because of outdated attitudes and a failure to engage with the issue.
The research, based on responses from more than 500 HR decision makers, found that half of businesses think it’s easier to recruit a non-disabled person than a disabled person. Four in 10 HR decision makers said that their company’s board of directors never or rarely discuss disability. More than half believe – wrongly, according to Scope – that the main reason disabled people don’t get jobs is because they lack the right skills or qualifications. More than one in 10 respondents think that disabled people should accept lower paid positions and nearly a quarter (25 per cent) think that disabled people need to adapt better to a business’ culture.
The UK’s disability employment gap – the rate at which disabled people are employed compared to non-disabled people – hasn’t changed for more than a decade. These statistics and attitudes make that unsurprising.
“It feels like time has stood still for disabled people in the UK. It’s as difficult for them to find employment today as it was a decade ago, with businesses continuing to struggle with knowing how to support them,” Jeff Dodds, managing director at Virgin Media, said. “But, enough is enough. Companies big and small now need to come together to help put an end to this disability employment crisis.”
Virgin Media and Scope are launching the #WorkWithMe pledge to tackle these issues. It is a free ground-breaking initiative to bring businesses – large and small – together to improve workplace practices and support a million disabled people to gain the skills and confidence to find and stay in work.
“Disabled people often get a rough deal getting into and staying in work. Far too many struggle to get into work, and too many fall out because they don’t get the support they need to thrive. There are pockets of good practice in large, medium and small companies all over this country, that we need to champion. But too many fall short,” Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at Scope, said.
“There is a huge amount of disabled talent and potential waiting for companies to tap into. It’s absolutely scandalous that a quarter of HR decision-makers claim that they have never had a disabled candidate for a job interview, and leadership boards often don’t even discuss disability. Both government and businesses have an urgent need to address the disability employment crisis. The pledge gives companies the tools they need to start making everyday equality in the workplace a reality for disabled people.”
To date, 19 companies from a wide range of sectors have signed the pledge to support disabled people and will share their experiences and best practice with other businesses. This includes leading electronics firm Philips and global construction equipment company JCB.
The pledge is a free five-step plan for businesses to take accountability and receive practical advice on how to improve workplace policies, practices and culture for disabled people.
The key elements include:
- A senior leader being accountable for disability inclusion
- A complete review of how a company supports disabled people – from recruitment to the policies in place to provide support in the workplace – and implementing a disability action plan
- Helping line managers become confident about how to support disabled people, such as how to implement reasonable adjustments
- Beginning the journey to record progress on disability inclusion, such as measuring the number of disabled people employed and tracking disabled employees’ views on how well the company is creating inclusive workplaces
Companies that sign the #WorkWithMe pledge will be able to access a suite of free resources based on first-hand experience of employing disabled people. This includes guides for managers on how to speak confidently about disability and hold accessible meetings, along with the opportunity to connect with other companies that have signed the pledge to discuss ideas and share resources.
Find out more and sign up to the pledge at www.workwithme.support